Although American landscape painting began in the mountains, woods, and rocky shore of the Northeast, by the mid-nineteenth century, artists ventured farther afield, seeking wilder or more exotic nature.
A native of Charleston, South Carolina, Louis Mignot enjoyed brief but illustrious recognition as the only Southerner among the so-called Hudson River school of landscape painters. The turning point in Mignot's career came in 1857, when he accompanied the painter Frederic E. Church on an arduous expedition to Ecuador. From his travel sketches, he composed many of his most powerful paintings, among them Landscape in Ecuador. Here the artist invites the viewer on a journey both adventurous and spiritual: the eye roving through dense and humid jungle across viaduct and rolling grasslands toward a distant town, and upward over ascending ridges to the snowcapped summit of a volcano. Presiding over all is the newly risen sun, an emblem of transcendent divinity. To an untraveled American in 1859, the picture must have seemed the very image of Eden.