Thomas Cole

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About this artist

Thomas Cole was the foremost American landscape painter of the romantic period. He apprenticed as an engraver as early as 1815 in England. At the age of eighteen he came to this country with his family, who settled in Ohio. After learning the rudiments of painting, in about 1820, Cole assisted as a designer in his father’s wallpaper and floor-cloth factory. He also worked as an itinerant portraitist. Determined to become an artist, he went to Philadelphia in late 1823, studying at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, when he could. In 1825 he moved to New York and that summer made his first sketching trip up the Hudson River, achieving immediate fame with the resulting landscapes. The following year the National Academy of Design elected him to membership. Cole regularly summered in Catskill, New York, sketching in New York and New England. He achieved success with both wilderness scenes and ideal landscapes, painting the first of these in 1827. In 1829 he made his first trip abroad, spending most of his time in England and Italy and returning to New York in 1833. After this time he was increasingly occupied with important ideal projects, especially The Course of Empire, 1833-36 (New-York Historical Society), and Voyage of Life, 1839-40 (Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, New York). In 1836 he married and established his permanent residence in Catskill, New York. On a second trip abroad in 1841 he visited London, Paris, Rome, and Sicily.

Albany, New York State Library, and Detroit Institute of Arts, Thomas Cole Papers (on microfilm, Archiv. Am. Art) § Louis Legrand Noble, The Life and Works of Thomas Cole, ed. Elliot S. Vesell (1853; Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1964) with introduction by Vesell § "Studies on Thomas Cole, An American Romanticist," Baltimore Museum of Art Annual 2 (1967), with essays by Gertrude Rosenthal and others, reprints of handlist of 1965 Baltimore Museum of Art Cole exhibition, selected Cole-Robert Gilmor, Jr., correspondence from 1826 to 1837, and Cole’s list of "Subjects for Pictures, 1827-30" § University of Rochester, NY, Memorial Art Gallery, and others, Thomas Cole, exh. cat., 1969, with text by Howard S. Merritt § Ellwood C. Parry III, The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination, American Arts Series (Newark, De.: University of Delaware Press, 1989), with reprint of catalogue of 1848 memorial exhibition, chronology, bibliography.