In 1844, at the age of 18, Church became Thomas Cole’s only pupil. He was soon proficient enough to begin exhibiting. He became an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1849 and a full member the following year. In 1850, Church was also elected a member of the Century Association.
Church traveled from the arctic to the tropics making copious sketches in search of material for his elegant paintings. His paintings were often extremely large, and they enthralled crowds with their realistic, technical virtuosity.
Church’s studio was in the 10th Street Studio Building in New York City from 1858 to 1887. He was a founding trustee of the Metropolitan Museum in New York City and served with the institution from 1870 to 1887.
In 1876 he suffered from his first attack of “inflammatory rheumatism,” which led him to paint with his left hand. By 1880 Church’s painting activity declined markedly. He turned his interest to the embellishment of his home, Olana, in Hudson, NY, now a museum in his memory.
Church died on April 7, 1900. He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Hartford, Connecticut.
New Hampshire Scenery