Frederic Edwin Church’s The Natural Bridge, Virginia

Meet the Artists of Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture

a natural bridge

Frederic Edwin Church, The Natural Bridge, Virginia, 1852, oil on canvas, 28 x 23 in., The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia, Gift of Thomas Fortune Ryan.

About this Artwork

Jefferson owned the Natural Bridge and the land surrounding it. In 1791 he urged American artist John Trumbull to travel there, in order to “take to yourself and your country the honor of presenting to the world this singular landscape, which otherwise some bungling European will misrepresent.” Frederic Church, the leading landscape painter of his day, painted the landmark after visiting Natural Bridge with his friend and patron Cyrus Field, who would also accompany the artist on his seven-month trip to South America. By this time, Church was steeped in Humboldt’s writings, notably Views of the Cordilleras, which compared Virginia’s Natural Bridge with similar South American landmarks.