Thomas Cole arrived in America in 1819, a young man raised in English industrial towns but steeped in the Romantic theories that abounded then in Great Britain. Here in the New World he would begin to paint, to establish a reputation as the foremost American artist of his day, and to change radically both the nature of landscape painting and the way Americans and the world viewed the new country.
In a series of breathtaking landscapes, painted principally in the Catskill Mountains, Cole sought to express the union of the palpable and the holy through an excited awareness of vast spaces, awesome horizons, and vibrant color. His masterpieces, such as Sunny Morning on the Hudson River, The Oxbow, and the monumental series The Course of Empire, awakened a passion for landscape that would characterize American painting throughout the nineteenth century.
In Thomas Cole, Earl A. Powell, Director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, traces the development of the painter and the interaction of his work and the Romantic theories that guided his thinking and informed his vision. Powell analyzes each of the works to demonstrate both the unique characteristics of Cole's oeuvre and the effect Cole had on the new generation of landscape painters. Powell has written numerous articles and exhibition catalogues on American artists, from Samuel F.B. Morse and Thomas Cole to the Abstract Expressionist painters of the twentieth century