Frederic Church went on a long trip to the Middle East and Europe where he made the sketches of this painting. This painting is thought to have been the last canvas that Church was able to paint using his right hand in its entirety, as a result of rheumatoid arthritis. The painting comes out as a unique one different from Church’s previous works of art measuring 153.7cm by 127.6cm.
The First Glimpse of the Al-Khazneh Temple
The El-Khasne, Petra is painted as Church would have seen the temple for the first time through a narrow passage called the Siq. At the time, the temple was only approachable from the passageway. When he first saw the site, he described it as astonishing and quoted in his diary that it was a beautiful temple that shone as if it possessed its internal light. At the time, Petra was considered dangerous but popular with artists. Church had reported of an artist having been shot in the area before him. The locals did not consider sketching sacred places as an innocent activity. Church designed the painting along with its frame as a gift for his wife.
He used a dark rock to frame the painting which was unconventional at the time but is very beautiful. It was then hung in his sitting room over the fireplace in his home in Olana state, New York where it still hangs. The design of the painting does not go deep or have a panoramic view; it is just a representation of how the beautiful temple looked like in the eyes of Frederic Church. Art critics have described the El-Khasne, Petra as a lifeless production that didn’t exactly fit as a symbol for Olana. The rock walls at either side of the temple present a kind of claustrophobic feel which is interpreted as an unconscious message from Church to his wife telling her to get out more.
Church's Home, Olana
Olana remains furnished as it was during the life of Frederic Church where visitors get a glimpse of the life of a rich artist during the 19th century. Most of his work is however in storage and that which is on display competes with the furniture, decorative arts and other collections making Olana not the best place to appreciate Church's paintings. The national academy museum offers an opportunity for art lovers to view church's work without distractions through a well-selected exhibition of Church's work, "Treasures from Olana: Landscapes by Frederic Edwin Church" organized by a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Kelvin J, Avery. Frederic Church as a member of the Hudson River school was greatly talented creating a view of a well-organized world where everything held its own place.