Thomas Cole and the Course of Empire

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Topics: Romanticism
Beauty Is Not a Timeless Thing Thomas Cole is known for his realistic portrayal of American landscapes and his allegorical works (Eisenman 154). He is a Romantic artist because his artwork depicts natural beauty and wilderness that also reflects "his inner feelings and imagination" (Spielvogel 659). In his series of five paintings, Cole reveals his thoughts and feelings in a series of paintings to show the importance of human 's coexistence with nature because "beauty is not a timeless thing" (Spielvogel 659). Cole, an American artist, was born in 1801 in England, but moved to the United States with his family in 1818 ("Thomas 1801"). Being an apprentice in an engraver shop while he was in England, Cole became a professional engraver in Philadelphia in 1823 ("White"). After his first visit to the White Mountains in 1827, Cole spent the rest of his life sketching natural scenery in the Hudson River Valley and its surrounding areas because he was impressed by the beauty of the American countryside ("White"). Cole felt it was his duty "to depict nature, especially American nature, as the visible hand of God" ("White"). He became one of the most famous realistic landscape artists in the United States (Maryk). Upon his return from the visit to the galleries of London and Paris between 1829 and 1832, he began to infuse his personal thoughts and ideas into his artworks (Thomas). He called this "a higher style of landscape" by which he meant historical and allegorical landscape paintings (Eisenman 154). The Course of Empire is one of Cole 's most famous series of allegorical works. Based on the same landscape located somewhere at the end of a river valley in the Untied States (Course), Cole adds his imagination and thoughts to a city evolving "from a near state of nature to consummation of empire, and then decline and desolation" (Course). Cole can be said to be a representative of Romantic artist because his emphasis on natural beauty, and because he imbues his


Cited: Eisenman, F. Stephen. Nineteenth Century Art. London: Thames & Hudson, 2002. Maryk, Michelle Spielvogel, Jackson. "Reaction, Revolution, and Romanticism, 1815-1850." Western Civilization, Alternate Volume: Since 1300

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