Frederic Church’s landscape painting Heart of the Andes comes to life in this 2.5D digital experience that takes viewers on an immersive journey to discover the connections between the painting and the ideas of Alexander von Humboldt. The Prussian naturalist and explorer had a sustained influence on Church’s career, and the artist intended Heart of the Andes as an homage to Humboldt. This project fully realizes Church’s intention, putting the artwork’s relationship to Humboldt on display like never before.
With the voice of SAAM curator Eleanor Jones Harvey as their guide, viewers go on a virtual adventure that offers extreme close-up views of Church’s landscape, allowing unprecedented access to the detailed brush strokes of his large-scale masterpiece. Applying 21st-century technology to the 19th-century painting, the 2.5D animation brings new dimensionality to Church’s painting. The illusion of depth in concert with a tailored soundscape transports viewers to the South American terrain that Church encountered as he followed in Humboldt’s trailblazing path some 50 years later.
This project was created in conjunction with the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s exhibition Alexander von Humboldt and the United States: Art, Nature, and Culture and is projected in the gallery to the scale of Church’s painting (six feet by ten feet). Additionally, the video is available on SAAM’s website: (https://americanart.si.edu/exhibitions/humboldt).