Frederic Edwin Church, Syria by the Sea, 1873, oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts.

Frederic Edwin Church, Al Ayn (The Fountain), 1882, oil on canvas. Mead Art Museum, Amherst College, MA, USA. Gift of Herbert W. Plimpton: The Hollis W. Plimpton (Class of 1915) Memorial Collection

Frederic Edwin Church, Broken Columns, View from the Parthenon, Athens, April 1869, brush and oil, graphite on paperboard. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. Gift of Louis P. Church.

Frederic Edwin Church, Temple of Jupiter at Sunrise, Baalbek, May 7, 1868. Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Gift of Louis P. Church.


Past Exhibition

Frederic Church: A Painter's Pilgrimage

Exhibition Dates: 
Friday, February 9, 2018 - Sunday, May 13, 2018
Mary and Charlie Babcock Wing Gallery | View Gallery


Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage, organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts, features more than fifty paintings and studies that Church completed during and after his 1867–1869 trip to the Near East, Rome, and Greece.  Church specialized in the production of dramatic, large-scale views of well-known but remote places which few members of his public had seen for themselves, such as The Andes of Ecuador in Reynolda’s collection, painted after a trip to South America in 1853.  Church was the first major American painter to visit either the Near East or Greece, and he had good reason to believe that his views of the area would be well received in the art market.

But Church had other, more private reasons for wanting to make this exotic trip.  Created in the aftermath of the Civil War, these paintings show Church turning his attention from nature to history, focusing on the rise and fall of civilizations as a way of dealing with loss that was both national and personal.  In his paintings of ancient cities and temples, we can see Church’s struggle to make sense of the tragedies of human life and history.  The power of these landscapes derives from their ability to express both awe at the apparently inhumane power of nature and a consoling faith in the presence of the divine.

Frederic Church: A Painter’s Pilgrimage has been organized by the Detroit Institute of Arts. Generous support has been provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art and the Henry Luce Foundation. Additional support has been provided by the National Endowment for the Arts. A significant loan of objects has been provided by Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. 

Reynolda House is one of only three venues for the exhibition, which debuted at the Detroit Institute of Arts in the fall of 2017 where it was named one of the city's Best Museum Shows of 2017 by the Detroit Free Press. Read more about the exhibition in our press room.