Songs to a Lost Paradise
The rugged and richly overgrown landscape of America in the earlier 19th Century, before it was despoiled by industrial man’s efforts to tame it and replace it with something more immediately comfortable, though far from as beautiful as Nature’s creations, was never celebrated on canvas more profoundly than by Thomas Cole, whose roots were in the industrial North of England from which his family was forced to emigrate in his childhood as it was overwhelmed by the unbridled chaos and dirt of the Industrial Revolution, and his art which is now presented in a watershed exhibition at the Met in all its glorious natural finery and dark forboding of the desecration to come, is not only a wonderful tribute to the landscape of early America but a vivid reminder of all that was lost when Andrew Jackson, in many ways an earlier version of our current occupant of the Oval Office, took the brakes off the ruthless economic harassment of Mother Nature and made profit the ruler of the new nation, a trend to which Cole was painfully alert, given his origins, and incorporated in his work, in fact explicitly painted in one major sequence of five huge canvases displayed around the end bay of the second major room of Gallery 746. just off the American Wing Cafe down some steps in the north west corner of that beautiful, sky lit space where so many exquisite white marble sculptures of less famous artists are displayed, in a sequence which starts with pure natural landscape on the left, reaches a peak of goldplated urban classicism in the center painting, and ends in desolation on the right, the ravages of materialism complete, and the rest of the exhibition follows a similar path, beginning with Cole’s early inspirations Turner and Constable who led the young returnee from America from his start as a dye developer for a fabric manufacturer and early standard depictions of upstate New York landscape into a liberated and much more ambitious approach which when informed also by extending his Grand Tour to Rome expanded into a genius for landscape celebration which led the way for others in the States till well past Cole’s death from a seemingly simple cold which took root in the 47 year old and saw him into the grave in a matter of days, struck down at the height of his powers and gathering renown, with another twenty years or more of unmatchable work in him, but with a must-see legacy that now can be enjoyed at the Met in the three months before it is sent to London’s Tate Gallery to raise the level of appreciation in that land of a lost son, for recognition of this superlative master is still somewhat limited there, according to the Yale art department head who took the press around in a preview, who when asked if he had any Coles in his own possession answered “I wish”, after having noted that Cole’s influence on his political contemporaries had been limited in restraining Jackonian desolation, but now the exhibition of Cole’s beautiful renderings of pristine nature and then the excessive enroachment of modern man’s careless replacements certainly was relevant in the present political climate, and a timely reminder of all we stand to lose if the trend begun in England’s North and carried over to Andrew Jackson’s desecration of what Cole valued most so long ago now continues in the 21st Century retrogressive return to that unthinking era now under way, which gives everybody two very important reasons not to miss this watershed show, its aesthetic joys unknown to modern art, and its political resonance.
Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings
Through more than six dozen works of art, this exhibition explores the British roots and European influences of the great American landscape painter Thomas Cole (1801–1848). Included in the presentation are 39 of Cole’s most important works. The exhibition reassesses Cole’s career and rewrites the history of the Hudson River School of painting.
Met Museum to Explore Transatlantic Career of Renowned Painter Thomas Cole
Exhibition Marks 200th Anniversary of the Artist’s Arrival in America
Celebrated as one of America’s preeminent landscape painters, Thomas Cole (1801–1848) was born in northern England at the start of the Industrial Revolution, emigrated to the United States in his youth, and traveled extensively throughout England and Italy as a young artist. He returned to America to create some of his most ambitious works and inspire a new generation of American artists, launching a national school of landscape art.
Opening January 30 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the exhibition Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings will examine, for the first time, the artist’s transatlantic career and engagement with European art. With Cole’s masterworks The Course of Empire series (1834–36) and The Oxbow (1836) as its centerpiece, the exhibition will feature more than three dozen examples of his large-scale landscape paintings, oil studies, and works on paper.
Consummate paintings by Cole will be juxtaposed with works by European masters including J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, among others, highlighting the dialogue between American and European artists and establishing Cole as a major figure in 19th-century landscape art within a global context. The exhibition marks the 200th anniversary of Cole’s arrival in America.