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'Nothing is accidental;
he has meditated his thought, breathed his inspiration,
lived in the spirit of his subject, so that every stroke of his pencil is guided by
the unerring instinct of faith in that which he beholds.'
Russell's Magazine, 5th August 1859.

Symbolism and Language

To the middle right of Rocky Forest Pool 1857 is the naturally fallen tree with its clear Cross of intersecting branches - which he was to use again in, Twilight in the Wilderness 1860 Here it is pointing in to the Light on the Water and beyond to the fading somewhat ghostly Main Oak on the other side. It is a strange place - so near to the brook - for a large leaning dark oak partly in silhouette. Is it beginning to fall and a reminder of the Charter Oak ('the aged tree was toppled by a windstorm on August 21st 1856') yet with its roots still in the River of Life? Christ's Charter is of course, The New Testament and the Charter Oak was the famous hiding place for Hooker's Charter which was the important civil, legal and religious declaration or Testament, for Connecticut.

Once again Church depicts 'the instructive events of our history especially those of moral grandeur and heroism.' Hartford City gave the Charter Oak a public funeral 'worthy of the fallen hero' and afterwards, Church who was most upset at its demise avidly collected fragments of the dead tree, like the holy relics of a patron Saint ('I went to Hartford and secured portions of the wood'). Today, at Church's home 'Olana' there are two partial cross sections one of a branch and the other of a root and a letter opener all inscribed, 'Charter Oak.'

He also referred to the symbolism of Oak and Elm, in his (similar sized) painting of The Charter Oak 1847 (& also The Charter Oak at Hartford 1846-47). Church had shown the historical origins of Hartford, with a young vigorous but smaller elm growing next to the oak, that represented the future for his home town.

The Oak was linked symbolically as well with the Old World (and England in particular) because of its associations with history but the elm, was specifically associated with the New World. In Mount Ktaadn 1853 the prominent pairing of an oak and an elm should be seen as symbolic because, neither oak nor elm grew in the Katahdin region.