The Savage State
Now look very closely at the painting. How large are the people compared with the landscape? What seems to be more powerful—nature, or humanity?
· sun rising in a stormy sky
· crag with boulder on it
· wigwams circled around a fire
· canoes on the river
· dim light
· hunter in buckskins, chasing a deer
I hope you sense the stillness in this painting.
- Notice the following:
skeletons of the old, once great buildings
river choked with refuse
birds nesting on the column
ivy, trees, and foliage taking over the building
I represent the Hudson River School painters, and this series called the Course of Empire reflects how many of us see the role of nature, man, progress, and “civilization.” Come into my studio to find out more.
Welcome to my studio!
I am proud to share my work and that of my friends with you. Many of us have lived and worked in the congested city of New York. Now, I wake up every morning in the glorious Catskills. I am surrounded by vast expanses of green hills instead of streets packed with people and horses, lofty pine trees instead of towering buildings, and the sounds of birds instead of hawkers and newspaper boys. This is one of the most beautiful places in the world.
You can find out more about me
· 1801—Born in northwestern England
· 1818—Moved to the U.S. with his family, his family to Steubenville, Ohio, and Cole to Philadelphia
· 1819—Moved to Ohio to join his family. Designed patterns and engraved woodblocks for his father’s wallpaper manufacturing company.
· 1823—Moved to Pittsburgh, and began painting landscapes
· 1824—Moved to Philadelphia, and was inspired by the Philadelphia Art Academy
· 1825—Rejoined his parents and sister in New York City. That summer he traveled up the Hudson River and into the Catskills to sketch.
Sold three of his paintings to the following: John Trumbull, William Dunlap, and Asher B. Durand
· 1826—Was elected a founding member of the National Academy of Design. His paintings were in demand, mostly by Daniel Wadsworth or Hartford and Robert Gilmor, Jr, of Baltimore.
· Met Asher B. Durand, who would become another Hudson River School painter
· Made a fellow of the National Academy
· 1829-1831—Studied the works of the Old Masters in England and traveled to Italy and France.
Met prominent painters Joseph Turner and John Constable
Met many wealthy Americans while there, and was hired to paint for them.
· 1832—Returned to New York and mounted an exhibit of the work he did while in Europe.
· Moved to the Catskills and set up a studio there.
· Met Luman Reed in the Catskills. Reed became Cole’s patron, hiring him to paint works such as The Course of Empire for him.
· 1836—Married Maria Bartow
Published an article, Essay on American Scenery, in the American Monthly Magazine
· 1838—Cole’s first child, Theodore Alexander Cole, was born.
· 1839—Mary Bartow Cole was born
· 1841-1842—Traveled in Europe, visiting family in England. Returned to Italy and France, and also Switzerland, where he continued to paint.
· Joined St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in Catskill.
· 1843—Troubled by financial concerns
—Emily Cole was born
· 1844—Began a two-year period of teaching painting to Frederic E. Church
· 1846—Began a series of paintings called The Cross and the World.
· Built a second studio some distance from his house.
· 1847—Elizabeth Cole was born, and died in infancy
· 1848—Died of pleurisy (an inflammation of the lining of the lungs)
—Thomas Cole, Jr. was born
The Consummation of Empire
In case you were unclear, “consummation” means the point at which something is finished. So what is Cole saying about this scene?
- Find these elements:
marble buildings with columns, on both sides of
same crag as in the first two paintings
people celebrating and crowding the streets
king or victorious general crossing the bridge
in a procession
blue sky with a few white clouds
I think you’re getting the picture now. I’m trying to tell a story through these five paintings. First, mankind enters a pristine natural environment. Then mankind starts taming that environment and reshaping it to his own needs. Next, the people live bustling, happy lives in the environment they’ve gone great lengths to build. So now? Right. Things start to collapse.
Find these things:
· same old crag
· enemy warriors sacking the city and setting it on fire
· storm or tempest brewing in the distant sky
· destroyed bridge
· temporary bridge, overflowing with soldiers and refugees
· headless statue
· people fleeing
So what part of the story am I trying to tell here? People have taken advantage of nature, and changed it too much for their own use. Instead of blending into the landscape, they’ve dominated it. this leads us to the fifth and final scene in our story.
The Arcadian or Pastoral State
I’m already confused. What does “arcadian” mean? Simple; untroubled; innocent; calm.
What about “pastoral?” About the countryside; showing the lives of shepherds in an idealized setting; peaceful
Got it? Now look for these things:
clear blue sky
· same crag as in the first painting
- · plowed fields
· herding sheep
· huge temple
Again, how large are the human figures in the landscape? How is this scene different from the first one? Can you tell what time of day it is?
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