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As in the best of Church's work
Rocky Forest Pool,
transcends its literal depiction and
Raises the Human Spirit
To a Sublime Level of Transcendent Spirituality.














Preparatory sketches (page 1 of 2)

In the New England Woods 1855-1865
Dimensions: Museum Notes, H: OM173 x W: OM305
COOPER-HEWITT MUSEUM. REF: DP 1917- 4 - 664A


Humboldt believed that the use of 'coloured sketches taken on the spot' were necessary. Church agreed and followed his dictum in this oil sketch which - if studied carefully reveals 15 similar features with Rocky Forest Pool 1857.

In the New England Woods 1855-1865 also seems to be the actual location of Rocky Forest Pool 1857 (and if it is, the attributed dates will need to be changed to 1855-1856).

With all the other evidence - that would place it within a 40 x 10 mile region (running North/South) of the Green Mountain Forest in Vermont, Northern New England and starting from Cuttingsville and Clarendon in the middle.

The similar naturally fallen tree or branch of In the New England Woods 1855-1865 is reflected in the pool of water in the foreground. Instead of one end of the tree being in the water (as in the finished painting) it is pointing towards the Light on the Water as it also does in Rocky Forest Pool 1857.

Here, this 'crystal lake' or pool also reflects the sky and the Divine Light from on High. Where the Rock in the sketch is white with Light (using impasto) Rocky Forest Pool 1857 has the running water in the brook, white with Light (using impasto). The metaphor is changed in Rocky Forest Pool 1857 for the Way of Christ although the Rock remains partially lit from the same Divine Light source as the water - from 'on High' in both works.

In Rocky Forest Pool 1857 the fallen tree is now pointing as it does later in Twilight in the Wilderness 1860 with a similar Christian lesson. With In the New England Woods 1855-1865 the main tree supporting the pointing branch is described in the museum notes as 'a maple (?).' This pointing branch also points to a large Rock similar in size, shape and position to the Rock behind the pointing tree in Rocky Forest Pool 1857. This maple and its canopy of leaves are at the same angle and position and planted on a similar sized bank as the maple next to the fallen pointing tree in Rocky Forest Pool 1857

His colours in the sketch are the same as in his finished painting with the same shaft of blinding white Light illuminating the heart of the sketch - as in the main picture - thereby imparting its main 'lesson.' This shaft of Light is alo used by Church in his oil sketch A stream in the New England Mountains (Archive of American Art DP1917- 4 - 861). Like Durand's In the Woods 1855. which inspired him, Church starts with a vertical sketch of a scene visited.

In the New England Woods 1855-1865 also shows the same brook flowing the same way towards the same hallowed Rock and a similar clump of trees to the Trinity of Trees in Rocky Forest Pool 1857

The viewer also hovers, suspended above the brook in both and similarly, it also leads you into the picture with the flow and direction of the water - towards the Divine (and away from yourself and human frailty?)

In this oil sketch, Church also introduces the same light-green point´llistic feathering to paint the leaves which are catching the light particularly on the same (almost identical) sweeping branches to the middle-left in both paintings. This brushwork is technically like (and derived) from the trees in The Natural Bridge Virginia 1852

The background scumbling of trees is treated similarly in all of these oils including, View of Cotopaxi 1857. See similar scumbling work in, Distant View of Sangay Volcano, Ecuador 1857.

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