‘Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire’ runs at the National Gallery from 11 June to 7 October, 2018

This summer, the National Gallery will see the American wilderness through the eyes of British-born artist Thomas Cole (1801–1848) with its new exhibition, Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire, which runs in the Ground Floor Galleries from 11 June to 7 October, 2018.

Known for epic vistas, dramatic natural settings, and imaginative landscapes, Thomas Cole’s work depicts nature at its most powerful and vulnerable. His paintings brilliantly capture the unique terrain of the American Northeast – largely still unspoiled in his time – while serving as a cautionary tale about the use of natural resources in an increasingly industrial age.


Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire: The Pastoral or Arcadian State, 1834, Oil on canvas, 99.7 × 160.6 cm, Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society, © Collection of The New-York Historical Society, New York / Digital image created by Oppenheimer Editions


The exhibition includes 58 works (the majority on loan from North American collections) including Cole’s iconic painting cycle, The Course of Empire (1834–6, New-York Historical Society) and the masterpiece that secured his career and reputation, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow) (1836, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York), a painting that has never previously been seen in the UK.

Cole’s paintings are shown alongside works by British artists with whom he was personally acquainted, as well as those who influenced him most, including Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable.


Thomas Cole, View of Monte Video, the Seat of Daniel Wadsworth, Esq, 1828, Oil on wood, 50.2 × 66.2 cm, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, Connecticut, Bequest of Daniel Wadsworth (1848.14), © Wadsworth Atheneum / Allen Phillips


A self-taught artist from Bolton, Cole is recognised as the father of landscape painting in the US. His career was shaped by his formative years labouring in the textile mills north of Manchester, and by his later study of the European masters whose works he travelled to see in London, Paris, and Rome.


Thomas Cole, View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm – The Oxbow, 1836, Oil on canvas, 130.8 × 193 cm, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1908, (08.228), © The Metropolitan Museum of Art, photo by Juan Trujillo


Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, said:

“Thomas Cole’s passionate engagement with the landscape of the recently established United States marks a new beginning in American painting. Inspired by the European tradition of Claude, Turner, and Constable, Cole depicted the unspoilt beauty of the American landscape but he also prophesied the dangers of an encroaching urban and industrialised society on it. His concerns remain highly topical today.” 


Exhibition organised by the National Gallery, London and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

For more information on the exhibition, please Click Here.


Top Image: Thomas Cole
The Course of Empire: The Savage State, 1836
Oil on canvas, 99.7 × 160.6 cm
Courtesy of the New-York Historical Society
© Collection of The New-York Historical Society, New York / Digital image created by Oppenheimer Editions

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