Destiny D. Aquino
To Grow in the Open Air: The Connection Between Religion and Nature in Thomas Cole's The Course of Empire Thomas Cole, a founder of The Hudson River School, can be considered one of the most famous American artists. The Hudson River School focused on creating landscapes of the continental United States in a pastoral setting in which humans were one with the their land. The Hudson River School artists accepted that the beauty and diversity of the American landscape was only possible through the divine grace of god. And while each of their individual piety varied the Hudson River School painters opinioned paralleled those of the fathers of American transcendentalism: Emerson, Thoreau, Whitman. The Hudson River School was able to create a visual depiction of the transcendental thoughts. “Concurring with Emerson, who had written in his 1841 essay, Thoughts on Art, that painting should become a vehicle through which the universal mind could reach the mind of mankind, the Hudson River painters believed art to be an agent of moral and spiritual transformation.” In The Course of Empire, a five piece series and one of Cole’s most famous works, these views about the relationship between man and nature can be observed if analyzed critically. Furthermore, through the critical evaluation of this series the viewer can ascertain that Cole is making an argument against religion that was not in tune with nature—that being a religion or society that choose to conquer nature rather then respect it as a living representation of God. The Course of Empire was created between 1833 and 1836. The five large acrylic paintings represent an imaginary empire and its course from creation to destruction and rebirth. It is clearly the same society Cole depicts throughout the entire series because of the identifiable landscape that serves as both the subject and the setting for each stage of the empire. Cole places individuals in direct interaction...
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