Thomas Cole


English born American Landscape Painter and the Founder of the  Hudson River School

Education - As a young boy he learned the basics of painting from traveling limners. He attended classes at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts

Medium - oil on canvas

Cause of death - Pneumonia


"For Cole was not only a great artist but a great teacher ; the contemplation of his works made men better. It is said of one of the old Italian painters, that he never began a painting without first offering a prayer. The paintings of Cole are of that nature that it hardly transcends the proper use of language to call them acts of religion. Yet do they never strike us as strained or forced in character ; they teach but what rose spontaneously in the mind of the artist; they were the sincere communications of his own moral and intellectual being. One of the most eminent among the modern German painters, Overbeck, is remarkable for the happiness with which he has caught the devotional manner of the old ecclesiastical painters, blending it with his own more exquisite knowledge of art, and shedding it over forms of fairer symmetry. " -- William Cullen Bryant addressing the National Academy of Design, New York, May 4, 1848, giving  A tribute to the life and works of Thomas Cole

The Hudson River School


Throughout the history of the United States, the American wilderness has been fundamentally important in creating a national identity.  The Hudson River School was a mid-19th century American art movement founded by Thomas Cole in 1825. Using the river as inspiration, these painters were celebrated for their realistic depictions of the regions stunning and distinctive landscape. Their radiant, majestic style was influenced by European romanticism. The artists shared common design aesthetics uniting them as a school despite their distinctive styles. The painters focused on the American wilderness, particularly the Hudson River Valley as well as the Catskill Mountains and Adirondack Mountains. The paintings were spectacular and dramatic reflecting the wilderness environment. The artists moved their studios out of doors and sketched directly from nature focusing on the drama of light and shadow. Many paintings depict a  rugged landscape, dramatic sunrise or ominous storm clouds brewing in the distance. The works were painstakingly detailed and celebrate Gods divine handiwork in nature.

The mid 1850s was a time of unprecedented development for the young nation, and the Hudson River painters depicted the vastness and beautify of a country proud of its natural resources. They  embraced nature and showed a remarkable attention to detail within the natural landscape. This school popularized the idea of  Manifest Destiny and came to symbolize American vitality, independence and nationalism. Today, works by the Hudson River school artists are treasured as the first uniquely American school of art and for their beauty and significance to art, history and culture




Key Descriptive Words  and Phrases associated with the Hudson River School-  unspoiled nature, atmospheric lighting, primeval landscape, theatrical, Catskill, Berkshire, White Mountains, Walt Whitman, American Transcendentalists, spiritual transformation, dramatic instincts, large scale canvasses, Luminist, Romantic school, wilderness, New York, symbolic language, realism,  Western Expansion and Manifest Destiny.


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Principle Artists Associated With The Hudson River School
Albert Bierstadt American 1830-1902
Thomas Cole, American, 1801-1848
Herman Herzog German, 1831-1932
Thomas Hill, English, 1829-1908
Thomas Moran English born American1837-1926
George Inness American, 1825-1894
Frederic Edwin Church, American, 1826-1900
George Loring Brown, American, 1814-1889
Thomas Chambers, English, 1808-1866
Asher B. Durand, American, 1796-1886
John Frederick Kensett, American, 1816-1872
Jasper Francis Cropsey, American, 1823-1900
Martin Heade, American, 1819-1904