Untitled Document

Artist Biography

 The first landscape painter of note that this country had to offer, Thomas Cole is considered to be the father of the Hudson River School. He emigrated with his parents in 1818 where they settled in Steubenville, Ohio. After working as an engraver’s assistant and teacher of drawing, Cole received some art instruction from an itinerant portrait artist named John Stein. Over the next few years Cole supported himself as a portraitist, stage set artist, and sign painter. He quickly realized a better opportunity for learning lay in Philadelphia, he moved there in 1824 where he exhibited a landscape at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The following year he moved to New York City, where he rejoined his family.


During the summer of 1825, Cole took the first of many trips to the Catskill mountains, scetching and painting detailed depictions of the American landscape. Three of his landscape paintings were illustrated on the front-page of the New York Mirror in October 1825, resulting in Cole’s reconition from other artists and patrons. Cole would never really lack for patrons ever again, and his success was so great that he not only was a founder of the National Academy of Design, but also most historians credit him with being the father of the Hudson River School and the American landscape tradition that ensued. His paintings hang in most major museums around the country, ranging from the Metropolitan Museum, the Baltimore Museum of Art, the Boston Athenaeum, the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and the New York Historical Society, as well as an example in the Louvre. He died prematurely at the age of 48 in February 1848, and was mourned as perhaps no other figure was in American art history.


This particular work dates from 1846, when he was working with his second of two students, Benjamin McConkey, a result from a summer trip to the Shawangunks near New Paultz, NY. Unlike his more allegorical works, this painting serves as a cheery reminder of how much Cole enjoyed exploring unfamiliar terrain. Cole later returned to Catskill, New York, where he start in on an allegorical series titled Cross at the End of the World. While never completed, Frederic E. Church’s work “Homage to Thomas Cole” derived its composition from those preliminary sketches done by Cole.