Tag: hudson river school

Thomas Cole, The Pastoral State


The second painting in the series is unique. It is Arcadia, the earthly paradise, in the Greek mode. Notice that nature is without strife in this painting. Our arts give us new powers–nature will toil for us. Hence, horse-riding and sailing boats are about human beings using natural motions for their own ends. The only evidence of natural strife comes in small details–rams butting heads, presumably during mating season. That and an odd, isolated man plowing, but with an ox. We see new arts arise–taming and shepherding animals. And yet, this is an apolitical situation. We only see one glint of metal–a strange character, obviously a soldier, but alone, resting.

Thomas Cole, The Savage State


The joke about Americans is that they love nature almost as much as conquest of nature. This is the first of five posts on a five-painting series by Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire, that will address that joke. Thomas Cole famously founded the Hudson River School — named for the painters’ landscapes of the Hudson River Valley. They made large canvasses arranging and detailing the beauty of nature before man. As Locke says, in the beginning the whole world was America. The art is somewhat Romantic and the Hudson School thrived into the late 19th century, past Cole’s early death, because Americans loved it. They do so yet, and except for craft, it’s hard to say how the canvasses are any different to pictures or video of, say, the Grand Canyon. You’d have to argue about taste…