Thomas Cole

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Thomas Cole was a renowned and notable American artist, who is remembered as the founder of the famous art movement, Hudson River School, which took the American art world by the storm during the mid-19th century. His works that portray the beauty of American landscapes have been regarded as some of the prime examples of Romanticism.

Thomas Cole was born on February 1, 1801, in Bolton-le-Moors, Lancashire, England. At the age of seventeen, Thomas along with his family, migrated to the US. They settled in Philadelphia, and later, moved to Steubenville, Ohio.

Thomas began his artistic training under the tutelage of wandering portrait painter, Stein. Later, he studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts for two years. He began his career in 1825, by selling his landscapes to small shops in New York City. Some of these paintings caught the eye of the influential Asher B. Durand and Colonel John Trumbull. Impressed by his work, Durand and Trumbull bought his paintings and secured him the patronage of other influential patrons.

Some of his earliest works include, “Scene from ‘The Last of the Mohicans,’ Cora Kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund”, “Landscape”, “Expulsion – Moon and Firelight”, “Distant View of Niagara Falls” and “A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains”.

In 1826, Thomas settled in the village of Catskill, near the Hudson River, New York. He enjoyed the peace and tranquility of the region, and the scenic beauty of this region would become the subjects of countless of his huge canvases. Often, he would venture out on foot and explore the forests and the Northeast region of the Hudson River, making drawings and sketches of everything and anything that piqued his interest in the vast and wild landscape.

He then used these sketches to make some of his most iconic paintings, such as “The Ox-Bow” and many others. His paintings have depicted the scenic beauty, the solitude and the mysterious allure of the North American forests. His bold and exuberant colors and expertly manipulated light effects made his landscapes extremely popular and unique throughout the art world. Thomas was not overly fond of portraits, however, he did make a few of them, but it was always his landscapes that stole the show.

1830 onwards, Thomas began traveling extensively, more frequently to Italy, where he would visit Florence, and his dear friend, the renowned American sculptor, Horatio Greenough.

Upon his return to the US, Cole shut himself away for days, and when he emerged it was only to showcase his remarkable creation of 5 large and captivating paintings for the series, ‘The Course of Empire’. This series garnered immense fame and critical acclaim, and firmly established his position as an influential and prolific artist.

Commissions began lining outside his door in great numbers, and in 1939, he began painting, a second, equally remarkable ad contemplative series, ‘The Voyage of Life’, which described the process of aging from birth to old age in its four huge and awe-inspiring paintings.

A few days before his death, Thomas Cole completed yet another series which depicted the dynamics of religion as understood by him, entitled ‘The Cross of the World’.

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