Thomas Cole (1801-1848): The Oxbow; View from Mount4/26/2021, 5:18:03 PM
Thomas Cole (1801-1848): The Oxbow; View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, After a Thunderstorm, 1836, oil on canvas, 130.8 x 193 cm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York Thomas Cole was an English-born American artist known for his romantic portrayal of the American wilderness, and history paintings. He is regarded as the founder of the Hudson River School, an American art movement that flourished in the mid-19th century. The Oxbow, a seminal landscape painting by Cole, depicts a Romantic panorama of the Connecticut River Valley just after a thunderstorm. It has been interpreted as a confrontation between wilderness and civilization. The painting moves from a dark wilderness with shattered tree trunks on rugged cliffs in the foreground covered with violent rain clouds on the left to a light-filled and peaceful, cultivated landscape on the right, which borders the tranquility of the bending Connecticut River. The view Cole sought to paint was a particularly difficult one, as its panoramic breadth extended beyond the width of typical landscape paintings of the period. To solve this problem, Cole stitched together two separate views from Mt. Holyoke, creating a synthetic, rather than a faithful, image of the scene. On the hill in the far background, logging scars in the forest can be observed. Cole personalized the work by depicting himself at the center of the canvas sitting on the rocks with his easel. Gazing back at the viewer from between two crags, the minute figure of the artist preserves the landscape on his canvas before it is lost, and, perhaps, invites our own judgement on the scene. This personal element reflects Cole's feeling of emotional connection to the work, which now stands as one of the most quintessential examples of mid-19th-century North American landscape painting.