Thomas Cole (1801-1848) was an American Romantic landscape painter who was a founder of the Hudson River school. He was born in Bolton, Lancashire, England in 1801. In 1818 his family immigrated to the United States, settling in Steubenville, Ohio.

 Cole 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. 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. 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. Cole's remarkable oeuvre, in addition to naturalistic American and European views, consisted of Gothic fantasies, religious allegories and classicized pastorals. 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.


"View from Mount Holyoke, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow)" (1836) Oil on canvas, 130.8 x 193 cm - 51 1/2 x 76 in. The Metropolitan Museum, New York, USA.



"A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch)" (1839) Oil on canvas. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., USA.



"Aqueduct near Rome" (1832) Oil on canvas.



"Arch of Nero" (1846) Oil on canvas. Newark Museum, New Jersey, USA.



"II Penseroso" (1845) Oil on canvas.



"The Course of Empire Desolation" (1836) Oil on canvas.



"The Hunter's Return" (1845) Oil on canvas.



"The Subsiding of the Waters of the Deluge" (1829) Oil on canvas, 90.8 x 121.4 cm - 35 3/4 x 47 3/4 in. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C., USA.

Text source: various.

Related Artists:


Related Terms: Romanticism, Classicism, Pastoral, Engraving, Oil Paint.


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