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Overview

Frederic Edwin Church and his fellow 19th-century landscape painters—many of whom were known as Hudson River School painters in accordance with the oft-depicted locale—extolled not only the natural wonders of the northeastern United States, but also those of the American West, South America, Europe, and the Near East, providing armchair travelers with views of exotic scenery most had never seen.

In 1853, Church embarked on a trip to South America, inspired in large part by the writings of prominent German naturalist and explorer Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859). The artist was particularly interested in the scientist's epic volume Cosmos: Sketch of a Physical Description of the Universe. Von Humboldt encouraged artists to record—and therefore share with viewers—the locale's diverse tropical features, for he understood the icy mountaintops, arid deserts, and steamy rainforests as evidence of a divine harmony in nature. Church heeded Von Humboldt's call, retracing his route through the Andes and recording in meticulous pencil and oil sketches details of nature and life along the Magdalena River in Colombia. Upon returning to his New York studio, he created Tamaca Palms using these studies, including those of the tamaca species of palm and the boat in the foreground, known as a champan or bongo. His attention to minute detail in the canvas shows the indelible influence of his teacher, Thomas Cole (1801–1848); moreover, it led one critic to deem Church "the very painter Humboldt so longs for in his writings."

Inscription

lower left: CHURCH 1854

Provenance

A.M. Cozzens, New York, by 1855. purchased by William Wilson Corcoran [1798-1888], Washington; gift 10 May 1869 to the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; acquired 2014 by the National Gallery of Art.

Exhibition History
1855
Thirtieth Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, 1855, no. 63.
1940
A Souvenir of Romanticism in America; or An Elegant Exposition of Taste and Fashion from 1812 to 1865, Baltimore Museum of Art, 1940, unnumbered checklist, as Scenery on the Magdalena River.
1948
Romantic America, Columbus Gallery of Fine Arts, Ohio, 1948, no. 8.
1966
Past and Present: 250 Years of American Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 15 April-30 September 1966, unpublished checklist, as Scenery of the Magdalena River, New Granada, South America.
1967
The Painter and the New World, Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, 1967, no. 334.
1976
Corcoran [The American Genius]. Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 1976, unnumbered catalogue, as Scenery of the Magdalena River New Granada, South America.
1979
Close Observation: Selected Oil Sketches by Frederic E. Church, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Cooper-Hewitt Museum, New York, 1979-1980, not on checklist.
1980
American Luminism, Adams Davidson Galleries, Washington, 1980, no. 21.
1989
Frederic Edwin Church, National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1989-1990, no. 22.
1996
Louis Remy Mignot: A Southern Painter Abroad, North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh; National Academy of Design, New York, 1996-1997, unnumbered catalogue.
2005
Encouraging American Genius: Master Paintings from the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington; Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; Parrish Art Museum, Southampton; Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte; John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, 2005-2007, checklist no. 25.
2008
The American Evolution: A History through Art, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 2008, unpublished checklist.
2009
American Paintings from the Collection, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 6 June-18 October 2009, unpublished checklist.
2013
American Journeys: Visions of Place, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, 21 September 2013-28 September 2014, unpublished checklist.
Bibliography
2011
Kelly, Franklin. "Frederic Edwin Church, Tamaca Palms." In Corcoran Gallery of Art: American Paintings to 1945. Edited by Sarah Cash. Washington, 2011: 24, 108-109, 262, repro.