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Dear Friends,

Well, at last I dared to make a thread on the Hudson River School - the North American manifestation of the Romantic school of art - and its founder, English-born Thomas Cole (1801- 1848). In effect, I have been feeling that I long owed it to my U.S friends. 

And in fact, it was Thomas Cole who captured the first landscapes of the Hudson River Valley when he took a steamboat into the area in 1825 and journeyed into the Catskill mountains. And it is by virtue of this fact that he is universally regarded as the founder of this school (or rather movement) known for its realistic and detailed portrayal of American landscape and wilderness, which feature themes of romanticism and naturalism.

ventually, works by the second generation of artists associated with the school expanded to include the sweeping landscapes of the West. What they all had in common was a desire to convey both the sublimity and majesty of nature and the energy of exploration and discovery that pulsed throughout the new nation. "The awe-inspiring vistas of the frontier were seen not just as manifestations of the hand of God upon the land, and also as a source of national pride; while Europe had its old ruins and architecture in which to glory, America had its natural monuments." (The Basics of Art: The Romantic Period)

"Neither the originator of the term Hudson River School or its first published use has been fixed with certainty. The term is thought to have originated with the New York Tribune art critic Clarence Cook or the landscape painter Homer D. Martin. As originally used, the term was meant disparagingly, as the work so labeled had gone out of favor when the plein-air Barbizon Schoolhad come into vogue among American patrons and collectors." (Wikipedia)

No participant of this movement can be more worthy of adorning these pages than its founder, Thomas Cole - who in addition was extremely prolific in his art. However, other greatly inspired painters belonging to the same school will also be showcased in this thread (see my next post below).

Thank you,

Luis Miguel Goitizolo


The Arcadian or Pastoral State (1)

By Thomas Cole

(born February 1, 1801, Lancashire [England]
died February 11, 1848 at
 Catskill, USA)


Technical data (2)

The Arcadian or Pastoral State
Oil on canvas

110.3 x
 67.4 cm
New York Historical Society (United States)


Profile (3)

Thomas Cole (born February 1, 1801, Lancashire [England], died February 11, 1848 at Catskill, USA), was trained as an engraver of woodblocks used for printing calico. Because he did not have any formal education in art, his aesthetic ideas derived from poetry and literature, influences that were strongly to mark his paintings. The Cole family emigrated to America in 1818, but Thomas spent a year alone in Philadelphia before going on to Steubenville, Ohio, where his family had settled. He spent several years in Steubenville designing patterns and probably also engraving woodblocks for his father's wallpaper manufactory. He made his first attempts at landscape painting after learning the essentials of oil painting from a nebulous itinerant portraitist named Stein. In 1823, Cole followed his family to Pittsburgh and began to make detailed and systematic studies of that city's highly picturesque scenery, establishing a procedure of painstakingly detailed drawing that was to become the foundation of his landscape painting.

"During another stay in Philadelphia, from 1823 to 1824, Cole determined to become a painter and closely studied the landscapes of Thomas Doughty and Thomas Birch exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy, His technique improved greatly and his thinking on the special qualities of American scenery began to crystallize. Cole next moved to New York, where the series of works he produced following a sketching trip up the Hudson River in the summer of 1825 brought him to the attention of the city's most important artists and patrons. From then on, his future as a landscape painter was assured. By 1829, when he decided to go to Europe to study firsthand the great works of the past, he had become one of the founding members of the National Academy of Design and was generally recognized as America's leading landscape painter.

"In Europe, Cole's visits to the great galleries of London and Paris and, more important, his stay in Italy from 1831 to 1832, filled his imagination with high-minded themes and ideas. A true Romantic spirit, he sought to express in his painting the elevated moral tone and concern with lofty themes previously the province of history painting. When he returned to America, he found an enlightened patron in the New York merchant Luman Reed, who commissioned from him The Course of Empire(1836), a five-canvas extravaganza depicting the progress of a society from the savage state to an apogee of luxury and, finally, to dissolution and extinction. Most New York patrons, however, preferred recognizable American views, which Cole, his technique further improved by his European experience, was able to paint with increased authority. Although he frequently complained that he would prefer not to have to paint those so-called realistic views, Cole's best efforts in the landscape genre reveal the same high-principled, intellectual content that informs his religious and allegorical works. A second trip to Europe, in 1841-42, resulted in even greater advances in the mastery of his art: his use of color showed greater virtuosity and his representation of atmosphere, especially the sky, became almost palpably luminous.

"Cole's remarkable oeuvre, in addition to naturalistic American and European views, consisted of Gothic fantasies (The Departure and The Return, 1837), religious allegories (The Voyage of Life, 1840), and classicized pastorals (The Dream of Arcadia, 1838). He consistently recorded his thoughts in a formidable body of writing: detailed journals, many poems, and an influential essay on American scenery. Further, he encouraged and fostered the careers of Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church, two artists who would most ably continue the painting tradition he had established. Though Cole's unexpected death after a short illness sent a shock through the New York art world, the many achievements that were his legacy provided a firm ground for the continued growth of the school of American landscape."


(1) This image is a courtesy of The Atheneum.

(2) The Atheneum.

(3) The Artchive, Wikipedia. 


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