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The most distinctive, and perhaps the impressive characteristic of American scenery is its wilderness….For those scenes of solitude from which the hand of nature has never been lifted, affect the mind with a more toned emotion than aught which the hand of man has touched. Amid them the consequent associations are of God the creator- they are his undefiled works, and the mind is cast into the contemplation of eternal things.
Thomas Cole (1801-1848)*

Depending on the era, nature has symbolized both fallen man, and pure, unadulterated man; both uncivilized savage and miracle of God’s creation. Look for manifestations of the divine in nature exhibited in Fallen Monarchs and View of the Hudson River Valley from Olana. How does the majesty of the landscape reinforce Manifest Destiny and God’s blessing of the new continent?

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Frederic Edwin Church was part of the Hudson River School, which celebrated the discovery and exploration of the new American continent, apart from the constructions and ruins of the European past. Artists of this school saw these vast unmarked landscapes as reflective of America’s limitless future. They also celebrated this wilderness as simultaneously beautiful and formidable.

Fallen Monarchs portrays a much smaller, yet similarly uninhabited American landscape that also reflects transcendental ideals of communing with the divine through nature.

*Thomas Cole “Essay on American Scenery,” American Monthly Magazine (No. 1, January 1836).