Cole, Thomas, 1801–48, American landscape painter, b. England. He arrived in the United States in 1818 and moved to Ohio, where he was impressed by the beauty of the countryside. In 1825 he went to New York, where his landscape paintings began to be appreciated. Largely self-taught, he depicted the scenery of the Hudson River valley and the Catskills, which he discovered on long walking trips, becoming a leader of the Hudson River school. In 1829 he went to Europe, where he spent some time sketching in England and Italy. In Paris he greatly admired the landscapes of Claude Lorrain. After he returned to New York, he was commissioned (1832) to paint his five famous allegorical scenes, farfetched and neoclassical in style, known as the Course of Empire (N.-Y. Historical Soc., New York City). This series and the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden (Mus. of Fine Arts, Boston) reflect his strong moralizing tendencies, combined with elements of fantasy; they are far less successful than his landscapes. Other works, such as Oxbow (Metropolitan Mus.) and Catskill Mountains (Mus. of Art, Cleveland), reveal his joy in the grandeur of nature.
See biography by L. L. Noble (1964).
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