Thomas Cole, “View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm — The Oxbow,” 1836, oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 76 inches, Metropolitan, New York

The Metropolitan Museum in New York City is poised to open a significant exhibition surrounding the extensive travels of one of America’s preeminent landscape painters of the 19th century.

Although he was born in northern England at the start of the industrial revolution in 1801, Thomas Cole (1801-1848) eventually immigrated to the United States in his youth, becoming one of America’s most preeminent landscape painters. During his short life, the artist would travel extensively throughout England and Italy as a young artist, returning to American to create some of his most ambitious works and inspire a new generation of American painters.

Thomas Cole, “The Titan’s Goblet,” 1833, oil on canvas, 19 3/8 x 16 1/8 inches, Metropolitan, New York

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City will soon be showcasing an important selection of Cole’s masterpieces during “Atlantic Crossings,” which opens on January 30 and continues through May 13. The show has been mounted in recognition of the 200th anniversary of Cole’s first Atlantic crossing, when he emigrated from England to the United States in 1818, “and examines in-depth Cole’s return journey to England in 1829-31 and his travels in Italy in 1831-32, revealing the development of his artistic processes,” the museum writes. “Seminal works created by the artist in the years immediately after his return to New York, between 1832 and 1837 — notably ‘The Oxbow’ and ‘The Course of Empire’ — are presented as a culminating creative response to his complex experiences of British art and society and of Italian history and landscape. In addition, Cole’s abiding passion for the American wilderness resulted in his fervent visual warning in these paintings to his fellow American citizens of the harsh ecological cost of unchecked development of the land.”

“This exhibition brings to prominence the dialogue between American and European artists in the mid-19th century by hanging Cole’s work in direct juxtaposition with works he studied on his formative journey, including paintings by J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, among others. It concludes with an examination of Cole’s extraordinary legacy in the work of the next generation of American landscape painters whom he personally mentored, notably Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church.”

To learn more, visit the Met.

This article was featured in Fine Art Today, a weekly e-newsletter from Fine Art Connoisseur magazine. To start receiving Fine Art Today for free, click here.

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Andrew Webster is the former Editor of Fine Art Today and worked as an editorial and creative marketing assistant for Streamline Publishing. Andrew graduated from The University of North Carolina at Asheville with a B.A. in Art History and Ceramics. He then moved on to the University of Oregon, where he completed an M.A. in Art History. Studying under scholar Kathleen Nicholson, he completed a thesis project that investigated the peculiar practice of embedded self-portraiture within Christian imagery during the 15th and early 16th centuries in Italy.


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