Cultured Wednesday: Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole was a 19th-century painter known for his landscape and history paintings, which is why we picked him for today’s art feature.

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Thomas Cole, born February 1, 1801 in Lancashire, UK, emigrated with his family to the United States in 1818, settling in Steubenville, Ohio.  Later, he moved first to Philadelphia and then to Catskill, NY, where he lived with his wife and children until his death on February 11, 1848.  The fourth highest peak in the Catskills is named Thomas Cole Mountain in his honor.

two lakes
A View of the Two Lakes and Mountain House, Catskill Mountains, Morning. 1844

Thomas Cole was a painter known for his landscape and history paintings, which is why we picked him for today’s art feature.  He was largely self-taught as a painter, and look how wonderful his landscapes are!  This is an imaginary scene from The Last of the Mohicans:

mohicans
Imaginary Scene from The Last of the Mohicans: Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tanemund. 1827

He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, and known for his romantic portrayal of the American wilderness.  The painters of the Hudson River School believed that the natural world was a gift from God, and faithfully depicting its wonders was a high calling.  “Faithfully depicting” doesn’t mean photographically accurate, however, for such paintings are known as “topographical landscapes”.  That’s a whole different ballgame.

romantic tower
Romantic Landscape with Ruined Tower. 1832–36

But he also painted what is known as “allegorical works”.  The most famous of these are The Course of the Empire and The Voyage of Life.  If you follow the links, you can see all the paintings; I will only give an example of each here.  First, the last of The Course of the Empire paintings called “Desolation”:

Cole_Thomas_The_Course_of_Empire_Desolation_1836
The Course of Empire: Desolation. 1836

And of The Voyage of Life, we chose “Manhood”:

The Voyage of Life Manhood 1842
The Voyage of Life: Manhood. 1842

Cole was also a poet and dabbled in architecture:  He entered a suggestion in the design competition held in 1838 to create the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, Ohio.  His entry won third place, and many contend that the finished building, a composite of the first-, second-, and third-place entries, bears a great similarity to Cole’s entry.  The painting below might have something to do with this little episode:

arcitects dream
The Architect’s Dream. 1840

Compare the Ohio Statehouse in this photo (shame about the ugly skyscraper…):

ohio statehouse
Ohio Statehouse in Columbus, OH

Lastly, the featured image again, un-cropped.  This is actually my favorite because if you’d offer us this place to move in, or even the spot by the water to build our own cabin on, we’d immediately kick out the fire, call the dogs and head there.

Home_in_the_Woods_1847_Thomas_Cole
Home in the Woods, 1847

7 comments on “Cultured Wednesday: Thomas Cole”

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