Art: Manifest Destiny in Paint

In Washington, a superb survey of early American masterpieces

There is no tract of art history whose prestige has changed more quickly than pre-1900 American art. Not quite 20 years ago, the Fogg Museum at Harvard decided to rid its basement of a dusty landscape: lurid sunset over a forest-girt lake somewhere in the Northeast. Nobody wanted it. In the end Sherman Lee, the infallible pontiff (now retired) of the Cleveland Museum, bought it for $20,000. The picture was Twilight in the Wilderness, 1860, by Frederic Edwin Church, a work now thought to be...

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