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ARTIST Thomas Cole - Research Paper Example

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Thomas Cole Thomas Cole was a 19th century artist. Cole was born in England, but his parents emigrated to the United States when he was very young, something that had a great effect on the young Cole because it was here that he began to study painting and techniques…
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Thomas Cole Thomas Cole was a 19th century artist. Cole was born in England, but his parents emigrated to the United s when he was very young, something that had a great effect on the young Cole because it was here that he began to study painting and techniques. Interestingly, Cole had no formal artistic training but picked up most of his techniques and influences from books that he gained access to. He moved around the United States, studying casts at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and eventually spending most of his time in the New York Area. Cole is credited with being the founder of the Hudson River School, a collection of artists who painted Romanticism-inspired landscapes reminiscent of the Hudson Valley Area, something Cole became interested in on a summer trip to the area. Artistic Significance The artistic significance of Cole is immediately obvious. Not only did he found the Hudson River School, his works are still displayed in countless galleries across the globe. Not only did Cole inspire many others to paint in a similar style while he was alive, the second generation of the Hudson River School was filled with such seminal artists as Frederic Edwin Church and Sanford Robinson Gifford. The Romantic-style landscapes and allegorical works of Cole have had artistic influences that can still be seen today in many paintings. Cole was also notable for his thoughts on color theories which have influenced many other artists. One of the main color theories of Cole's work is the idea that the predominant color of a work should be a bright one, something that predominated the cubist and modernist works of the 20th century. Cole suggested that light and dark colors should be used in opposition to draw the viewer's eye to certain important aspects of the painting, and it is this that can lead to the creation of a masterpiece. Cultural & Political Significance Not only did Cole have a great significance in the artistic sense, he also had a great impact on cultural and political spheres. The 19th century was a time of great change in the United States, and was a century that saw a civil war and the abolition of slavery, albeit after the untimely death of Cole. It is interesting that some scholars believe that Cole had a great impact on inspiring the masses to look after the natural landscape because of his beautiful renditions of American scenery. It has been suggested that Cole and the rest of the Hudson River School artists may have inspired Americans to settle the American West and begin to look after the natural environment. Additionally, Cole had many wealthy patrons which would have given him considerable impact in the art world, something that would have helped him to reach a larger audience. Culturally, Cole himself was said to be a great fan of music and poetry, which would have had a major impact on his work and perhaps this love would have influenced the cultural world around him, although it is impossible to say for sure. It is known that certain groups of people would have interacted on a regular basis in the 19th century United States, and Cole was one of these. Anyone within this circuit would have had an influence on the cultural make-up of the day. As well as his landscapes, Cole was known for painting series of allegorical works that were representations of culture at the time. For example, the series of works The Course of Empire depicts the same empire over a course of time, something that was very culturally significant worldwide in the 19th century. Many of his works also had a religious theme, something that was greatly influenced by the current religious and cultural climate of the day. Works in Context As previously mentioned, Thomas Cole had a great influence on others politically, artistically and culturally. However, he was also influenced by these forces himself, something that no artist can claim to be immune to. The 19th century was a time of great historical interest and these factors influenced Cole greatly. For one, the population of the United States grew tremendously in this time because of the immigration of many people from all over Europe. Cole himself was an immigrant from the United Kingdom, and his family had a great influence on his early life in this sense. Many facets of his work are similar to those of the English Romantic movement, who also focused heavily on the beauty of nature, concentrating on landscapes. Cole would also have had access to works from many different European cultures because of the diversity involved in the founding of the United States. Something else important at the time was the question of settling the American West. The area was one of great beauty, something which inspired Cole greatly. It has been suggested that the Hudson River School was important in inspiring people to care for this environment and ensure that the West was settled well to preserve the beauty of the area. Seminal Artwork Although the Hudson River School was primarily focused on painting landscapes, Cole himself is probably best known for his series of allegorical paintings. One of these is The Voyage of Life, a series of four paintings that represent the four states of life; childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age. These are themselves divided up into four main elements that are found in each painting of the series; the voyager, the angel, the landscape and the river. It is these former two that have come from Cole's inspiration from the Hudson Valley area. Each painting in the series is painted in Cole's charactersistic oil on canvas style, with often painful attention to detail. Each also has one main focal color, something that Cole discussed in his theories of color. The viewpoint of each painting seems to get larger as we follow the characters through the allegory, with each offering something new and interesting to illustrate the path of life. This series is particularly interesting because it has parallels with the realism of Cole's landscapes whilst sharing many influences from the Renaissance allegories. Bibliography Kornhauser, Elizabeth Mankin et al. Hudson River school: masterworks from the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. Yale University Press in association with the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, 2003. Print. Noble, Louis Legrand. The life and works of Thomas Cole. Sheldon, Blakeman, 1856. Print. Powell, Earl A. Thomas Cole. H.N. Abrams, 1990. Print. Stilgoe, John R. et al. Thomas Cole: drawn to nature. Albany Institute of History and Art, 1993. Print. Read More
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