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Frederic Edwin Church
Cotopaxi
1855
oil
28 x 42 1/8 in.
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Frank R. McCoy



Wisps of smoke rising from its cone hint at the latent destructive power of Cotopaxi, one of the most frequently active volcanoes in Ecuador. For many at mid-century, South America and its volcanic craters symbolized nature's creative and destructive forces. For others, the potentially active geological wonders were emblematic of pending political conflict.