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Art and the Empire City: New York, 1825–1861

September 19, 2000–January 7, 2001

The Heart of the Andes

The exhibition culminates in the dramatic display of Frederic Edwin Church's monumental painting The Heart of the Andes (1859). This masterpiece from the Metropolitan's collection, an idealized depiction of an exotic South American vista, is the sole work of art on view in the final gallery, presented as it was originally—as a single picture in a darkened room. The painting is displayed in a reconstruction of the original, elaborate, freestanding frame of dark wood that the artist designed for it, intending to create the effect of looking through a casement window onto an actual landscape. During its 1859 single-picture debut in New York, the painting was seen by no fewer than twelve thousand viewers. Subsequently it was shown to great acclaim in London, after which it was returned to the United States and then toured the country until 1861. In addition, this remarkable painting was one of the works exhibited at the Sanitary Fair of 1864, an event organized to raise funds for the war wounded, and which inspired the citizens of New York to call for a city museum. Although the Civil War intervened, in 1870 Frederic Church helped to found that museum, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.