The Hudson River Valley Institute

Home » Uncategorized » “The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World,” and how it inspired one of Frederic Church’s greatest paintings

“The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt’s New World,” and how it inspired one of Frederic Church’s greatest paintings

The upcoming Spring ’16 issue of The Hudson River Valley Review will feature a cover article by David Schuyler on the Saving of Olana. The house and grounds of Frederic Church’s estate is one of the jewels of our region, and the Olana Partnership continues to enrich it further with programs such as this upcoming talk by author Andrea Wulf.

On Saturday April 9 at 4 pm at the Hudson High School, the Olana Partnership proudly presents an illustrated lecture and book signing with internationally-acclaimed author Andrea Wulf.  The event will be Wulf’s first East Coast stop on her United States and United Kingdom tour.


The Invention of Nature” Andrea Wulf’s newest New York Times best-selling and award winning biography reveals the extraordinary life of the visionary German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859) and how he created the way we understand nature today.  Perceiving nature as an interconnected global force, he turned scientific observation into poetic narrative, and inspired Frederic Church on numerous levels.


“More than any other painter Frederic Church answered Alexander von Humboldt’s appeal to unite the arts and the sciences. I can’t wait to visit Olana and to have the opportunity to talk about Humboldt’s ideas and concept of nature – many of which became so important for Church” stated Wulf.


Though almost forgotten today, Humboldt was an intrepid explorer and the most famous scientist of his age. His restless life was packed with adventure and discovery, whether climbing the highest volcanoes in the world, paddling down the Orinoco or racing through anthrax–infested Siberia. Humboldt discovered similarities between climate zones across the world and predicted human-induced climate change. His writings inspired naturalists and poets such as Charles Darwin, Henry Wadsworth and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe as well as politicians like Thomas Jefferson and artists like Frederic Church.


Humboldt’s writings are documented in his five volume series Kosmos written between 1845-1896.  It was these writings that inspired Frederic Church to “follow in the footsteps” of Alexander von Humboldt and travel to the same locations in Columbia, Ecuador, Mexico and Germany painting the natural world that so fascinated Humboldt.  The entire journey can be summed up in one of Church’s most famous works “The Heart of the Andes.”  The connections and influence Humboldt had on Church will be on display in the 2016 exhibition at Olana titled “Capturing the Cosmos” opening on May 15.


Andrea Wulf was born in India and moved to Germany as a child. She lives in Britain where she trained as a design historian at the Royal College of Art. She is the author of “The Brother Gardeners” and the co-author of “This Other Eden.” Her book “Founding Gardeners” was published to great acclaim in spring 2011. Her “Chasing Venus” was published in 2012 in eight countries in conjunction with the last transit of Venus in our century. Her latest book, “The Invention of Nature” has received rave reviews and has been voted the 10 best books of 2015 by the New York Times.


To pre-register, please visit or call Olana’s Education Department at 518-828-1872 ext. 105. Walk-ins are welcome. The Hudson High School Auditorium is located at 215 Harry Howard Avenue, Hudson, NY 12534.  Tickets to the illustrated lecture are $10 for members of The Olana Partnership and $15 for non-members.


The Olana Partnership programming has been made possible in part through support provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts, a State agency; the Hudson River Bank & Trust Foundation; the Educational Foundation of America; the John Wilmerding Education Initiative, and the members of The Olana Partnership.

About Olana and The Olana Partnership: Olana is the greatest masterpiece of Frederic Edwin Church (1826-1900), the preeminent American artist of the mid-19thC and the most important artist’s home, studio and designed landscape in the United States.  Church designed Olana as a holistic environment integrating his advanced ideas about art, architecture, landscape design, and environmental conservation. Olana’s 250-acre artist-designed landscape with a Persian-inspired house at its summit embraces unrivaled panoramic views of the Hudson Valley and Catskill Mountains and, today, welcomes more than 150,000 visitors annually.

Olana State Historic Site, a historic site administered by the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, Taconic Region, is a designated National Historic Landmark and one of the most visited sites in the state. The Olana Partnership, a private not-for-profit education corporation, works cooperatively with New York State to support the restoration, conservation, and interpretation of Olana State Historic Site. 2016 will mark the 50th anniversary of this public/private partnership. To learn more about Olana and The Olana Partnership, please visit

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Hours & Info

Mon.-Fri: 9am - 5pm
%d bloggers like this: