Thomas Cole David Jackson 8/2/04 Art AppreciationMaxwellPainting landscapes was very important during the 19 th century. Thomas Cole was one of the most important figures in landscape painting in the United States. He went to many places searching for nature, which he painted to show the unmatchable beauty nature creates. His works of art helped people see and take pride in their great land, which was called America. Cole's works were often made people feel like they needed to go out in nature and discover the inspiring world of mother earth. Thomas Cole, born on February 1, 1801 in Lancashire, England, found himself at fourteen working as a textile printer and wood engraver in Philadelphia Pennsylvania.
Cole returned to his parents in 1819 in Ohio; this is were he learned how to oil paint and how to use different kinds of oil painting techniques under the supervision of a portrait painter, Stein. Cole was very impressed and impacted by the landscapes of the "new world" and how magnificent they were compared to where he came from, which was England. Cole found that art came naturally to him and eventually taught himself how to observe nature and still life. He started by illustrating American trees, plants, animals, and even Native Americans. With his sketches of nature he made several different paintings including his famous "The Course of Empire", "The wood chopper", and "The Oxbow." In early 1826, Thomas Cole was most famous for being the creator of the National Academy of Design. As the founder, Cole was urged by fans to paint American scenery, but Cole desired to create a landscape painting that could express moral and religious meanings.
He painted and painted and then in 1836 he married and settled in Catskill, New York to Maria Bartow. In Catskill he made a beautiful landscape painting of the Catskill Mountains and Hudson River. He is said to have made a big impact on artists like Frederick Church and Albert Bierstadt. Sadly, Cole died early of a disease on February 11, 1848. But his life wasn't fruitless, he helped lead the first school of landscape called the Hudson River School into the making; were many more leading artists came. Thomas Dougherty, Asher Brown Durand, Albert Bierstadt, and others came from the Hudson River School and they all became romantic realists and painted about the American country sides.
These realists joined detail panoramic images with moral insights, which they got by hailed romantic writers such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and Walt Whitman. These painters saw landscapes having feelings of hope, divinity, and even harmony. The Hudson River School was a very important asset to American culture and art. Bordering countries during the nineteenth century were demolishing America and made Americans want to see their nation survive as an independent nation. Cole focuses on the American landscape and mixes idealism and realism into his paintings to really get viewers to admire nature and its beauty. He believed that landscape painters needed to have strength determination, and courage to overcome Mother Nature's more turbulent side.
Then, in 1825, John Trumball, an artist, discovered Cole's magnificent work in a frame at a frame shop. Trumball immediately bought lots of Cole's works and drew art critics' attention. With the Hudson River School being so prosperous the National Academy of design was born. In the early nineteenth century landscape artists painted scenes of America's east side near the Hudson River, but by the mid-nineteenth century Landscape artists tended to paint portraits of the newly explored western territory and the South American tropics to show a more extravagant side of the United States.
Cole's first major painting, "The Course of the Empire," was a symbolist ic illustration showing the five stages of an empire; which were the savage state, pastoral state, consummation of the empire, destruction, and finally desolation. The different canvases display the relationship between man and the earth. Thomas Cole believed that human civilizations were not permanent, because of past empires rising and then falling. He said that men can dominate and create a majestic empire, but in time the hard built sturdy empire will fall. In the scenery Cole painted each scene in the same location, but used the different seasons, weather conditions, and time to make a more appropriate mood for each of his different paintings. Cole's message was that the mother earth was in ultimate and supreme control over the human race and living beings; men cannot stop her will.
In the first canvas of "The Course of the Empire" or better known as "The Savage State" a grassy rich green bay is seen, and in the background smoke is seen rising from a cluster of teepees and mountain. The feel of the painting is natural, undomesticated land with a sense of newness. There are broken trees with thick underbrush and hunters trying to kill dinner. From far away a viewer could see a fire with savages gathering together as hunters are seen running by a stream with hunting weapons. The grisly gray clouds produce a mystifying feel to the mountain while the waves of the ocean brush against the shore. This piece of art shows the primitive state of the world with the corporation of men.
Thomas Cole wrote a description of the primitive state, "The Empire is asserted, although to a limited degree, over sea, land, and the animal kingdom." In the second part, also called "The Pastoral State," The same area is used, but the perspective is altered. What's different with the second state is that the trees and underbrush are more tamed the grass is lusher and it shows some people doing busy daily things. It has shepard's, soldiers, and working women doing chores and watching the children. Animals are domesticated to help with farming and work, houses are built, and more structures are seen.
The mood is also different in this painting; the feeling a viewer gets is a more calm, relaxing, and joyful feeling. The image represents a time were man has altered his surroundings to better suit his needs and family, but still be in touch with nature." The Consummation of Empire" there are huge advances in technology that the first and second states of an empire. The perspective is shot at the bay, and it has many buildings, boats and walkways on or near the water, which is calm and serene. The scene shows man being well off and abundant. They overcame nature by making ways of basically living on the water. With "Destruction" the scene is dark and doomed.
Man's buildings and great architecture are destroyed by outside invaders and the people are die ing. Fighting and death is seen everywhere the waters are lashing violently and the clouds are deep and smoky. The main point to this piece of art is to show that human empires don't last and often fall in time. Nothing is forever. In the fifth and final part of "The Course of the Empire,"Desolation" is seen. This one takes place during the night and the night sky is calm and clear.
The moon is shining, the clouds are thin and serene, and the water is still and motionless. There are no humans present and the broken pillars and buildings are covered with dark green moss. The area and environment is very wild and untamed, the growth of the plants are out of hand. On one side of the image two deer can be seen drinking in water that is now unused by humans. The main message of this portrait is that nature will always reign and will regain what she had lost to man. All of the plants and some animals have reappeared but the humans don't.
Cole had different views on the natural world and humans. He felt that America had a wild, untamed beauty to her and that human beings only destroy that beauty. He said that to walk with nature, as a poet is the necessary condition of a perfect artist. He displayed American landscapes with a new vision in mind, but he also did not forget to make the pictures show the true essence and portray religious and figurative matters.
Cole believed that men live and die just like plants and animals; in "The Course of the Empire" Cole used the worn mountains and dry rivers to represent the cycles nature goes through just like how humans go through. Cole's art can symbolize that as the United States early colonies are fading, a new one is rising; just like as there is death there is also life. The America Cole represents is a competitive, plentiful, one with a society ranked by classes. Cole Often painted nature in contrast to life. In his "The Oxbow" painting the dead trees and livings ones represented the cycle life goes through. From a far a viewer can see the tranquil bend of the river, a golden yellow light coming from the west, and a storm in the distance with some trees shot out on the nearside of the painting.
The image is painted as if the viewers are taken in a moment of time. The artist can't be seen at a first glance because he is greatly tiny in the picture, but he is in the image. It seems that Cole tries to get the viewer to see beyond their field of vision to see nature's colors, lights, and artistry. The storm can be seen as humans who will eventually wipe out the wild and replace it with its own possessions. Thomas Cole is one of the best realists out there. He made Americans and non-Americans see beauty in nature, opportunities, possibilities, and a future in America.
He didn't only inspire a nation, but he also inspired many artists to reach their goals in the art world. Cole was a brilliant, talented artist, and did a mighty fine job in effecting the art world. Works Cited The Hudson River School: American Landscape Artists. New York: Smith mark Publishers, 1996. web Edward.
American Realism. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , 1994.
Stokstad, Marilyn. Art History. Rev. ed. Vol. 2.
New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. , 1995. 973-974. Yager, Bert D.