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Thomas Cole ( 1801 - 1848 )  Category ( Artists ) [suggest a correction]

Thomas ColeThomas Cole is considered by most scholars to be the founder of the Hudson River School of painting. Cole was born in and was active during the height of the Romantic period of art. He is most famous for his picturesque and sublime treatment of the American landscape and wilderness.

Cole was born in England but immigrated with his parents to the United States, settling in the State of Ohio. He learned the basics of painting from an itinerant portraitist by the name of Stein. Cole preferred landscape and after moving to Philadelphia he began study at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. By 1825 he returned to his family, who had moved to New York City. Not long after his arrival there, Cole obtained support from a patron to visit the Hudson Valley, where he quickly learned to love the naturalism offered by a rural setting. Cole spent the late 1820s and early 1830s abroad, mostly in Italy and England. Cole enjoyed landscape series, where he focused on and followed a particular theme. Among his better-known words are the five-part series of The Course of Empire, and two versions of the four-part The Voyage of Life. One of the two versions is today at the National Gallery in Washington, D.C.

Cole became a major influence to a number of his fellow American artists, including Asher Durand and Frederic Church, who studied with Cole from 1844 to 1846. The three artists are considered the triumvirate of the Hudson River School, which focused on naturalism and realism in art. The American landscape was ideal for the schools’ philosophy, as Americans and particularly Europeans regarded the United States as an idealized, Romantic setting, with its wild terrain and elements of the sublime.

In 1827 Cole settled on a farm in Catskill, New York, where he painted a major portion of his work. He married Maria Bartow in 1836. She was the niece of the farm’s owner, so the couple remained on the farm, where Cole died in 1848. His home, called Cedar Grove, was declared a National Historic Site in 1999. A mountain in the Catskills is named in his honor.

Image: Thomas Cole, ca. 1844-48.

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