Art, Nature, and Environmental Awareness: Alexander von Humboldt’s Legacy

Friday, March 20, 2020, 9:00 am  5:30 pm

A painting of a landscape with a mountain in the distance.

Frederic Edwin Church, Study for "The Heart of the Andes," 1858, oil on canvas, Olana State Historic Site, New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, OL.1981.47.A.B.

Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture examines Humboldt's impact on five spheres of American cultural development: the visual arts, sciences, literature, politics, and exploration, between 1804 and 1903. The exhibition centers on the fine arts as a lens through which to understand how deeply intertwined Humboldt’s ideas were with America’s emerging identity, grounded in an appreciation of the landscape. Humboldt’s quest to understand the universe—his concern for climate change, his taxonomic curiosity centered on New World species of flora and fauna, and his belief that the arts were as important as the sciences for conveying the resultant sense of wonder in the interlocking aspects of our planet—make this a project evocative of how art illuminates some of the issues central to our relationship with nature and our stewardship of this planet.

This day-long symposium features presentations by historians of art and science, and contemporary artists addressing how Humboldt’s observations and ideas from 200 years ago resonate with even greater relevance today in the face of climate change.

The program is free and open to the public. Registration is required.


  • Randall Griffin, professor of art history, Southern Methodist University
  • Eleanor Jones Harvey, senior curator, Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Thomas Lovejoy, professor of environmental science and policy, George Mason University
  • Dario Robleto, artist-in-residence, University of Houston
  • George Steinmann, artist, musician, researcher
  • Andrea Wulf, author