Cultural Encounters: 1825-1900

During the 1800s, commercial and political connections fostered cultural encounters as well, nowhere more so than in New York, the principal hub of communications and shipping. The growing ease of international travel for those who could afford it facilitated exploration. Washington Irving journeyed from New York to Spain; the poet José María Heredia traveled to New York from Havana; and visits and mutual observations among North Americans, South Americans, and Spaniards grew increasingly common.
 
Interaction took place on-the-ground and in the life of the imagination. Artists and writers measured their own society against others, producing paintings, literature, and journalism that helped to define national and cultural identities. Spanish-speakers integrated themselves into the life of the city as they enjoyed its educational and entrepreneurial opportunities, and the freedom it afforded to publish and organize around issues of concern.

Frederic Edwin Church (United States, 1826–1900), Cayambe, 1858. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection, on permanent loan from the New York Public Library, S-91 Frederic Edwin Church, a leader of what is now known as the Hudson River School, was already respected for his landscape paintings when he left for South America in 1857. Soon after his return, sugar refiner Robert L. Stuart (later president of the American Museum of Natural History), commissioned him to paint Cayambe. Many New Yorkers imagined the lands to their south as Church depicted them here: sublime scenery, brimming with natural specimens, and located far from “civilization.”
Frederic Edwin Church (United States, 1826–1900), Cayambe, 1858. Oil on canvas. New-York Historical Society, The Robert L. Stuart Collection, on permanent loan from the New York Public Library, S-91
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