Thomas Cole

Earlier this year I read a biography of my favorite painter, Thomas Cole, by Earl Powell. Two great quotes stood out, the first by Cole himself:

“The most distinctive, and perhaps the impressive characteristic of American scenery is its wildness….And to this cultivated state our western world is fast approaching; but nature is still predominant, and there are those who regret that with the improvements of cultivation the sublimity of the wilderness should pass away: for those scenes of solitude from which the hand of nature has never been lifted, affect the mind with a more deep toned emotion than aught which the hand of man has touched. Amid them the consequent associations are of God the creator–they are his undefiled works, and the mind is cast into the contemplation of eternal things.” from Cole’s “Essay on American Scenery

a-wild-scene-1832

The second is from W.C. Bryant, given in a eulogy at Cole’s funeral:

“In 1840 he completed another series of large paintings, called The Voyage of Life, of simpler and less elaborate design than the Course of Empire, but more purely imaginative. The conception of the series is a perfect poem. The child, under the care of its guardian angel, in a boat heaped with buds and flowers, floating down a stream which issues from the shadowy cavern of the past and flows between banks bright with flowers and the beams of the rising sun ; the youth, with hope in his gesture and aspect, taking command of the helm, while his winged guardian watches him anxiously from the shore; the mature man, hurried onward by the perilous rapids and eddies of the river; the aged navigator, who has reached, in his frail and now idle bark, the mouth of the stream, and is just entering the great ocean which lies before him in mysterious shadow, set before us the different stages of human life under images of which every beholder admits the beauty and deep significance. The second of this series, with the rich luxuriance of its foreground, its pleasant declivities in the distance, and its gorgeous but shadowy ‘Structures in the piled clouds, is one of the most popular of Cole’s compositions.”

cole8

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