Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Thomas Cole

Speaking of the New York Academy in Rome (see earlier post), probably my favorite New York artist to draw inspiration from a trip to Italy is Thomas Cole. I'm from upstate NY, and have always been a fan of what is generally known as the Hudson River School, but really became interested after seeing the American Sublime exhibition at Philadelphia's Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts a couple years ago. That show was terrifically invigorating, and I really enjoyed organizer Tim Barringer's lecture. If you get a chance, he's a great speaker.

The show included all five of Cole's Course of the Empire paintings, which were themselves inspired by his travels in Italy and Byron's Childe Harold. Here is a timely quote from that poem -

"First Freedom, and then Glory; when that fails, Wealth, Vice, Corruption."

Something interesting learned at the lecture is that the term Hudson River School was actually a derogatory term used by European artists of the time in describing the work being made in the States. If anything, Cole and his contemporaries would have most likely referred to themselves as Sublimists.