Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole, 1801–48, American landscape painter, b. England. He arrived in the United States in 1818 and moved to Ohio, where he was impressed by the beauty of the countryside. In 1825 he went to New York, where his landscape paintings began to be appreciated. Largely self-taught, he depicted the scenery of the Hudson River valley and the Catskills, which he discovered on long walking trips, becoming a leader of the Hudson River school. In 1829 he went to Europe, where he spent some time sketching in England and Italy. In Paris he greatly admired the landscapes of Claude Lorrain. After he returned to New York, he was commissioned (1832) to paint his five famous allegorical scenes, farfetched and neoclassical in style, known as the Course of Empire (N.-Y. Historical Soc., New York City). This series and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston) reflect his strong moralizing tendencies, combined with elements of fantasy; they are far less successful than his landscapes. Other works, such as Oxbow (Metropolitan Mus.) and Catskill Mountains (Mus. of Art, Cleveland), reveal his joy in the grandeur of nature.

See biography by L. L. Noble (1964).

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright© 2014, The Columbia University Press.

Selected full-text books and articles on this topic

American Painting of the Nineteenth Century: Realism, Idealism, and the American Experience
Barbara Novak.
Icon Editions, 1979 (2nd edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "Thomas Cole: The Dilemma of the Real and the Ideal"
Random Harvest
James Thomas Flexner.
Fordham University Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: "Thomas Cole's The Oxbow: The Romance and Harmony of the American Landscape" begins on p. 145
Critical Issues in American Art: A Book of Readings
Mary Ann Calo.
Westview Press, 1998
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 4 "Thomas Cole and Jacksonian America: The Course of Empire as Political Allegory"
Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts
Christopher Sten.
Kent State University Press, 1991
Librarian’s tip: "The White Mountains, Thomas Cole, and 'Tartarus': The Sublime, the Subliminal, and the Sublimated" begins on p. 127
The Italian Presence in American Art, 1760-1860
Irma B. Jaffe.
Fordham University Press, 1989
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 9 "On Return from Arcadia in 1832"
The Eccentrics and Other American Visionary Painters
Abraham A. Davidson.
E. P. Dutton, 1978
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 1 "The Beginnings of American Visionary Painting, 1800-1850: Visionaries of the Spectacular"
Nature and the American: Three Centuries of Changing Attitudes
Hans Huth.
University of Nebraska Press, 1990 (New edition)
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 3 "The Romantic Period" and Chap. 5 "The Poetry of Traveling"
The Hudson River School and the Early American Landscape Tradition: Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, April 17 to May 18, 1945
Frederick A. Sweet.
Art Institute of Chicago, 1945
A Short History of American Painting
James Thomas Flexner.
Houghton Mifflin, 1950
Librarian’s tip: Chap. Four "The Rediscovery of America"
American Painting, History and Interpretation
Virgil Barker.
Bonanza Books, 1950
Librarian’s tip: Chap. 53 "Mid-century Landscape"
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