An Essay On American Scenery

An Essay On American Scenery-66
As the Metropolitan Museum’s website about the exhibition says, “Cole’s abiding passion for the American wilderness resulted in his fervent visual warning in these paintings to his fellow American citizens of the harsh ecological cost of unchecked development of the land.” As a nation we didn’t heed his warning very well, although it radiated into our American culture through his influence on many other painters and writers.

As the Metropolitan Museum’s website about the exhibition says, “Cole’s abiding passion for the American wilderness resulted in his fervent visual warning in these paintings to his fellow American citizens of the harsh ecological cost of unchecked development of the land.” As a nation we didn’t heed his warning very well, although it radiated into our American culture through his influence on many other painters and writers.Their vision and their environmental warnings are still supremely relevant today.The natural and semi-natural landscapes of the first two paintings are “obliterated by the garish architecture of an imperial city.

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Our word “sabotage” comes from the French cousins of the Luddites, whose simple wooden clogs, called “sabot” in French, were sometimes thrown into machines to disable them. Turner (1775–1851) were depicting their dystopian images in their works.

When Cole was seven years old, the English poet William Blake called the burgeoning factories “dark Satanic Mills.” Painters such as Philip de Loutherbourg (1740-1812) and J. When his father’s business failed, Cole worked for a time as an engraver of the blocks from which calicoes, colorful cotton fabrics, were printed.

Finally, in 1818, when he was 17 years old, his parents gave up on England and emigrated with the family to America, settling in Ohio.

(The exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum marks the 200th anniversary of Cole’s first, westward crossing of the Atlantic.) His early experiences, the exhibition argues, profoundly influenced Cole’s later attitudes toward the relationship between nature and society.

Thomas Cole was born in 1801 in Bolton, Lancashire, in northwest England.

As the Industrial Revolution and global trade accelerated, Bolton grew into one of the largest centers of cotton spinning and textile weaving in the world, an Industrial Revolution boomtown.I’ve also written about Edward Bierstadt (1824–1906), another 19th century American landscape painter associated with the Hudson River School, who learned from and extended Cole’s work to depict the Colorado Rocky Mountains and California’s Yosemite as national treasures, sublime and spiritual landscapes worthy of our care and conservation.And it is interesting to note the overlap of Cole’s life with Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), Henry David Thoreau (1817–1862), John Muir (1838–1914), and John Burroughs (1837–1921), whose writings expressed views similar to those presented by Cole in his art.Cole was a visionary, whose art reflected his personal journey, crossing and re-crossing the Atlantic at a time when the damage being caused by the emerging Industrial Revolution was clear in England and just beginning to be felt in the New World of America.He issued his prophetic warnings of the ecological and social costs of this dramatic shift in the relationship of humans and nature in his paintings and writing.On the near side, intact forest still covers the ridge, with dark rain falling in the background.Cole painted a tiny self-portrait into this painting, in the bottom center foreground, sitting at his easel but facing toward us, and the wilderness.If I were to place us along Cole’s continuum, this fourth painting seems to match the present state of the world most closely.In the final painting of the series, “In these paintings,” writes Elizabeth Kornhauser, the curator of the exhibition, “the artist addressed the dangers faced by the young nation under the expansionist policies of President Andrew Jackson, which led to drastic ecological, social, and economic changes, and he challenged the American public to consider the moral value of maintaining the sublime aspects of the landscape.” In his painting series – Cole “called on the American public to stop destroying God’s pure creation—the wilderness,” writes Kornhauser.Our current president seems to have a fascination, if not personal identification, with Emperor Jackson., completed in 1836, chaos and violence, fires, smoke, destruction, and a storm have overwhelmed the scene of the previous painting.

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