Thomas Cole: The Prophet-Painter of America

Michael Prodger at The New Statesman:

If these paintings were all about the inherent self-destructiveness of man, Cole was just as concerned with the fate of nature. He took a break from painting The Course of Empire to work on a large allegorical landscape called View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm – The Oxbow (1836). It is no mere view: the left-hand side of the picture shows wild, wooded hilltops under a lowering sky while the right-hand side shows the tight bend of the oxbow river and a vista of carefully tended fields bathed in sunlight.

One part, therefore, shows the sublime, the other the picturesque; one nature in the raw, the other nature tamed; although God is present in both, Cole wished his meaning to be clear. His countrymen should beware of the urge to tame the landscape: “the ravages of the axe are daily increasing – the most noble scenes are made desolate”.

more here.