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Thomas Cole

Born: Bolton-le-Moor, Lancashire, England, 1 February 1801
Died: Catskill, NY, 11 February 1848
Nationality: Anglo-American

middle class


largely self-taught


1825 – first exhibits landscapes; attracts attention of John Trumbull

1833 – begins work on The Course of Empire

1836 – The Course of Empire exhibited in New York

1839 – begins work on The Voyage of Life; series engraved by the American Art-Union for mass sale


England and Italy (1829-32; 1841-42)

Commissions from: 

Daniel Wadsworth, Luman Reed, Samuel Ward

Important Artworks: 

The Course of Empire, 1833-36 (New York Historical Society, New York)

Oxbow on the Connecticut River, 1836 (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York)

The Voyage of Life, 1839-40 (Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute, Utica, NY, second version, 1841-42, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC) (Including: Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age)



In an 6 July 1835 journal entry, Cole celebrated the advantages of landscape painting in America:

:The painter of American scenery has, indeed, privileges superior to any other. All nature here [in the Catskill Mountains] is new to art. No Tivolis, Ternis, Mont Blancs, Plinlimmons, hackneyed and worn by the daily pencils of hundreds; by primeval forests, virgin lakes and waterfalls, feasting his eye with new delights, and filling his portfolio with their features of beauty and magnificence, hallowed to his soul by their freshness from the creation, for his own favored pencil." 

Louis L. Noble, The Course of Empire, Voyage of Life, and Other Pictures of Thomas Cole, N.A. with a Selection of his Life, Character, and Genius (New York: Cornish, Lampert, 1853), 202.


Web Resources

Metmuseum: Thomas Cole

smarthistory: Cole, The Oxbow