Cotopaxi, 1862

  • Frederic Edwin Church, American, 1826-1900

Oil on canvas

  • Unframed: 48 × 85 in. (121.9 × 215.9 cm)
  • 66 5/8 in. × 103 in. × 6 1/4 in. (169.2 × 261.6 × 15.9 cm)

Founders Society Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Gibbs-Williams Fund, Dexter M. Ferry Jr. Fund, Merrill Fund, Beatrice W. Rogers Fund, and Richard A. Manoogian Fund


On View

  • American, Level 2, West


American Art before 1950

Cotopaxi, the quintessential nineteenth-century vision of nature’s sublime and terrifying power, was painted on commission for the well-known book collector and philanthropist James Lenox when Church was at the height of his fame. The painting made a tremendous impact on the American art public, who perceived it as a geological parable of the Civil War then in progress. The viewer’s attention is focused on two principal motifs—the burning disc of the rising sun in its contest with the smoldering volcano. The colors radiate with fiery intensity against a low, pearlescent skyline. In this cosmic drama of light dispelling darkness, Church mirrors the contemporary tragedy of the Civil War and offers hope for its resolution through the cross formed by the sun’s reflection on the lake. No other representation so summarized American ideals at this critical point in the nation’s history.

Signed and dated, lower right: F.E. CHURCH | 1862

1862-1880, commissioned by James Lenox (New York, New York, USA)

1880-1945, Lenox Library (later New York Public Library) (New York, New York, USA)

1945, dealer, M. Knoedler and Co. (New York, New York, USA)

1945-1976, John Astor (Miami, Florida, USA)

1976, dealer, Hirschl & Adler Galleries (New York, New York, USA)

1976-present, purchase by the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

New York Evening Post, March 14, 1863. New York Herald, March 16, 1863, 4. Journal of Commerce, March 17, 1863, 2. New York Times, March 17, 1863. New York World, March 18, 1863. Commercial Advertiser, March 21, 1863. The Albion, March 21, 1863. New York Leader, March 21, 1863, 1. New York Daily Tribune, March 24, 1863. New York Express, March 31, 1863. Harper's Weekly, April 4, 1863, 210. London Observer, June 18, 1865, 6. London Weekly Times, June 18, 1865, 5. London Daily News, June 19, 1865, 7. London Review, 1865, 662. London Morning Star, June 26, 1865, 5. London Evening Star, June 26, 1865, 4. London Daily Telegraph, June 28, 1865, 3. Taylor, Tom. London Times, June 28, 1865, 6. Bell's Weekly Messenger (London), July 1, 1865, 3. "Minor Topics of the Month." Art Journal, n.s., 4 (July 1, 1865): 227. "Art. Church's New Pictures of Chimborazo and Cotopaxi." Reader 6 (July 2, 1865): 18-19. Illustrated London News, July 8, 1865, 18. London Sunday Times, July 9, 1865, 2. Court Journal (London), July 15, 1865, 712. London Morning Post, July 21, 1865, 6. London Standard, August 1, 1865, 3. Palgrave, F.T. "English Pictures in 1865." Fortnightly Review (London) 1 (August 1, 1865): 666. "Minor Topics of the Month: By F.E. Church." Art Journal (London), n.s., 4 (August 1, 1865): 257-258. Bayley, W. P. "Mr. Church's Pictures. Cotopaxi, chimborazo, and the Aurora borealis. Consider also with Reference to English Art." Art Journal (September 1865): 265. "Editorial Comment." Art Interchange 45 (July 1900): 12. Walton, William. "The Field of Art: The Galleries of Paintings of the New York Public Library." Scribner's 50 (November 1911): 638. Romantic Painting in America. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1943, no. 49, p. 132 (ill.). Richardson, E.P. American Romantic Painting. New York, 1944, p. 29. A Loan Exhibition of American Paintings. Exh. cat., Brooks Memorial Art Gallery. Memphis, 1945, no. 23. American Artists Discover America. Exh. cat., Allen Memorial Art Gallery. Oberlin, OH, 1946, no. 10. Huntington, David C. "Frederic Edwin Church, 1826-1900: Painter of the Adamic New World Myth." Ph.D. diss., Yale University, New Haven, 1960, pp. 111-114. Huntington, David C. The Landscapes Of Frederic Edwin Church: Vision Of An American Era. New York, 1966, pp. 10-20, 47-49. Huntington, David and Richard Wunder. Frederic Edwin Church. Exh. cat., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C., 1966, no. 82, pp. 17-18, 33-34, 63-64. 19th century America. Exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1970, no. 107 (ill.). Lunsford, John. The Romantic Vision in America. Exh. cat., Dallas Museum of Fine Arts. Dallas, 1971, no. 24. The Natural Paradise: Paintings in America 1800-1950. Exh. cat., Museum of Modern Art. New York, 1976, no. 29, p. 51 (ill.). Wallach, Allan. "Trouble in Paradise." Artforum (1976): 30, 35 (ill.). "Detroit Acquisition." Jackson Citizen Patriot, May 20, 1977, (ill.). "Masterwork Acquired Here." Macomb Daily, Macomb, MI, May 20, 1977. “$450,000 Paid." The Evening Bulletin, Philadelphia, PA, May 20, 1977, (ill.). "Detroit Art Institute Acquires Masterwork." Flint Journal, May 20, 1977, (ill.). "Masterwork Acquired for $450,000." Herald-Palladium, Benton Harbor, MI, May 21, 1977, (ill.). "Detroit Institute gets Church Work." Ann Arbor News, May 21, 1977, (ill.). "Institute gets Church Painting." Daily News, Greenville, MI, May 23, 1977. "Detroit Museum Gets Art Work." Times, Bay City, MI, May 23, 1977. "Detroit Art Institute Gets Painting." Daily Globe, Ironwood, MI, May 25, 1977. Medical Center News, Detroit, MI, May 25, 1977, (ill.). "F.E. Church's Cotopaxi Acquired by DIA." Detroit Monitor, May 25, 1977, (ill.). The Sunday Plain Dealer, May 29, 1977, Sec. 5, p. 17, (ill.). "About the Arts." Enquirer & News, May 29, 1977. "Heroic Landscape." Flint Journal, June 12,1977, (ill.). Toledo Blade, Ohio, June 19, 1977, (ill.). 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Dallas, 1980, pp. 62, 66. Talbot, William S. "Indian Summer by Jasper F. Cropsey." Bulletin of the DIA 58, no. 3 (1980): 156, (ill.). Wilmerding, John. American Light: The Luminist Movement, 1850-1875, Paintings, Drawings, Photographs. Washington, D.C., 1980, pp. 155, 189. A New World: American Painting, 1760-1900. Exh. cat., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Boston, 1983, pp. 248-249, no. 45. May, Stephen. "Mountains: Spectacular Nineteenth-Century Visions." Southwest Art (Jan 1985): 73, 70 (ill.). Frederick Edwin Church: Images of Cotopaxi. Exh. cat., National Museum of American Art. Washington, D.C., 1985, no. 10, pp. 7, 25-27, 73-74. “Family Art Game.” DIA Advertising Supplement, Detroit News, April 15, 1985, 20 (ill.). 100 Masterworks from the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1985, pp. 198-199 (ill.). Manthorne, Katherine. Creation and Renewal: Views of Cotopaxi by Frederic Edwin Church. Washington D.C., 1985, cat. 10, pp. 73-75, pl. I, p. 11. Shaw, Nancy Rivard. "Rebellion, Defiance, and Beauty: Two Centuries of American Painting." Apollo 124, no. 298 (December 1986): 69, 72-73. Friedman, H. Sun and Earth. New York, 1986, p. 219, (col. ill.). Goetzmann, William H. New Lands, New Men, New York, 1986, p. 202. American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School. Exh. cat., Metropolitan Museum of Art. New York, 1987, pp. 254-257. Kelly, Franklin. "Frederic Church in the Tropics." Arts in Virginia 27, nos. 1-3 (1987): 16-33, 30-31 (ill.). Kelly, Franklin. Frederic Edwin Church and The National Landscape. Washington D.C., 1988, p. 125. Kelly, Franklin. Frederic Edwin Church. Exh. cat., National Gallery of Art. Washington, D.C., 1989, no. 36, pp. 61-62, 112. "The DIA Lends a Helping Hand with 19th-Century Art." The Detroit News, October 4, 1989. Minks, Louise. The Hudson River School. New York, 1989, pp. 100-101. Mitchell, Timothy. "Frederick Church's the Iceberg’s Erratic Boulders and Time's Slow Changes." Smithsonian Studies in American Art 3, no. 4 (Fall 1989): 3, 5 (ill.). Sweeney, J. Gary. "The Nude of Landscape Painting: Emblematic Personification in the Art of the Hudson River School." Smithsonian Studies in American 3, no. 4 (Fall 1989): 43-65, (ill.). Sherman, Joe. "Frederic Church and his Great Pictures." Smithsonian 20, no. 7 (October 1989): 88-103. Avery, Kevin. Church's Great Picture: Heart Of The Andes. New York, 1993, p. 42, fig. 26 (ill.). Carr, Gerald L. Frederic Edwin Church: Catalogue Raisonne Of Works Of Art At Olana State Historic Site, vol. 1. New York, 1994, pp. 239-241. Davis, John Harlan. The Landscape Of Belief: Encountering The Holy Land In Nineteenth-century American Art And Culture. Princeton, N.J., 1996, pp. 174-175. American Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts. New York, 1997, pp. 47-52. In Search of the Promised Land. Exh. cat., Berry-Hill Galleries. New York, 2000, fig. 26, p. 147. The Civil War and American Art. Exh. cat., Smithsonian Museum of American Art. New York, 2012, fig. 6, p. 42.

Frederic Edwin Church, Cotopaxi, 1862, oil on canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts, Founders Society Purchase, Robert H. Tannahill Foundation Fund, Gibbs-Williams Fund, et al., 76.89.