Frederic Edwin Church’s Tequendama Falls near Bogotá, Colombia

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

A sketch of a waterfall

Frederic Edwin Church, Tequendama Falls near Bogotá, Colombia, July 1853, pencil and gouache on paper, 18 1/8 × 12 1/2 in, Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum, Gift of Louis P. Church, 1917-4-260, Photo © Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.

About this Artwork

When Church visited Tequendama Falls, he relied on Humboldt’s description of his approach from the bottom of the Bogotá River up to a vantage point where he could take in the thundering cascade. Humboldt admired the falls, proclaiming, “The solitude of the place, the richness of the vegetation, and the dreadful roar that strikes upon the ear, contribute to render the foot of the cataract of Tequendama one of the wildest scenes, that can be found in the Cordilleras.” This drawing served as the basis for Church’s finished painting. He used a numerical key in his pencil sketches to remind himself of the colors, sound, and other sensory experiences he wanted to capture in his finished painting, which he painted in his New York studio.