“The Heart of the Andes” is a large oil-on-canvas landscape painting by the American artist Frederic Edwin Church. It was created in 1859 and is currently housed in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. The painting is more than five feet high and almost ten feet wide, and it depicts an idealized landscape in the South American Andes, where Church traveled on two occasions. The painting was a sensation when it was first exhibited in April 1859, establishing Church as the foremost landscape painter in the United States.
The painting portrays a shimmering pool served by a waterfall at the center right of the landscape. The snow-capped Mount Chimborazo of Ecuador appears in the distance, and the viewer’s eye is led to it by the darker, closer slopes that decline from right to left. The evidence of human presence is shown by the lightly worn path, a hamlet and church lying in the central plain, and closer to the foreground, two locals are seen before a cross. The church, a trademark detail in Church’s paintings, is Catholic and Spanish-colonial, and seemingly inaccessible from the viewer’s location. Church’s signature appears cut into the bark of the highlighted foreground tree at left.
The painting is considered one of Church’s most renowned works and has been described as an example of his romanticized vision of nature.