In Woodland Temple, a rich tapestry of observed detail allows the viewer to suspend disbelief in the obviously contrived double arch in the center. Moran filled the foreground with plants, mossy rocks and tree roots, a mushroom-studded log, butterflies, birds, ancient trees with wrinkled bark, exposed roots, and fantastically twisted branches. A bright patch of light between the right-hand arch nearly merges into a cross, which draws the eye upward to a hovering white bird. These details invite a religious interpretation of the scene. Such an implication of the presence of the Divine in nature is, of course, consistent with the Romantic philosophy of the Hudson River School painters, and certainly Moran continues this point of view. This idea, moreover, was strengthen in mid-century by the writings of Ruskin, which were read by Moran and so many other American painters.
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