Monday, February 5, 2018

THOMAS COLE'S Journey: Atlantic Crossing at the Met Museum: Review By Polly Guerin

Thomas Cole, The Oxbow, 1836
The Catskills with its cathedrals of natural beauty and breathtaking landscapes captured on the canvases by Thomas Cole (1801-1848) elude to America as a "new eden" in danger of destruction that Cole himself would shape a new metaphor in words as well as painting."
     I can but humbly remark that Cole's paintings are majestic reminders to remember how the artist did not sway from portraying how civilization would destroy the natural wilderness.
     THOMAS COLE'S JOURNEY: ATLANTIC CROSSINGS, a breathtaking exhibition  at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, through May 13, 2018 marks the 200th anniversary of Cole's arrival in America in 1818. The exhibition presents a new take on Cole. By exploring the transatlantic career of the renowned founder of the Hudson River School the exhibition examines for the first time the artist's transatlantic career and engagement with European art. 
       With Cole's masterworks The Course of Empire Series (1834-36) and The Oxbow (1836) as its centerpiece, more than three dozen examples of his large-scale paintings, oil studies, and works on paper provide an engaging insight into the artist's expansive oeuvre.  Image: Thomas Cole (American, born England), Lancashire 1801-1848 Catskill, New York). View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts after a thunderstorm--the Oxbow, 1836. Oil on canvas, 51 l/2 x 76 in. Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage 1908. Image (c) The Metropolitan Museum of Art. The Oxbow is a seminal landscape painting depicting a romantic panorama of Connecticut River Valley,  just after a thunderstorm; interpreted as a confrontation between wilderness and civilization. 
COLE'S JOURNEY His arrival in the United States in 1818, and his embrace of the American Wilderness as a novel subject for landscape art of the New World reveals his prodigious talent, but then, too, he returned to England in 1829-31 and he traveled to Italy in 1831-32.  Cole embraced the on-site landscape oil studies and adopted elements of the European landscape tradition and learned from contemporary painters in England, including Turner, Constable and John Martin, and furthered his studies in landscape and figure painting in Italy. On view comparison study of works by these British masters figure prominent in the show whilst consummate paintings by Cole juxtaposed with those works, highlight Cole as a major figure in the 19th-century landscape art within a global context.
Scene from "The Last of the Mohicans" 1827 
WARNING AMERICA  Cole applied the lessons he had learned abroad to create the five-part series The Course of Empire (1834-36), warning the the American public that the rise and decline of ancient civilizations could be a potential fate for the young nation.  Image: Thomas Cole (American, born England) Lancashire 1801-1848 Catskill New York) Scene from "THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS," Cora kneeling at the Feet of Tamenund, 1827. Oil on Canvas, 25 3/8 x 35 l/8 in, Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford , Connecticut. Bequest of Alfred Smith (1868-3) Photo: Allen Phillips\Wadsworth Atheneum. 
      This is a powerful exhibition that takes us to a time and place where the landscape rose with monumental majesty, pristine and abundantly rich in raw vistas of incredible beauty, captured by Cole. A series of educational programs include the MetLiveArts STING: will feature an intimate acoustic performance by Sting in the Museum's Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium on April 24 for members only, and on April 25 and 26 (7:30 p.m. for the general public.. Prior to each concert ticket holders will enjoy a special viewing of the exhibition with curators Elizabeth Kornhauser and Tim Barringer.  Several other educational programs are scheduled, visit  Exhibition location: Floor 1, Gallery 746, The Erving and Joyce Wolf Gallery.
Thomas Cole in Plein Air (1801-1848)
  Of special note, I wish to mention that Elizabeth Kornhauser will moderate a Sunday at The Met discussion on April 15 at 
2 p.m. on Cole's role as a proto-environmental artists with scholars Alan Braddock and Rebecca Bedell and artist Michel Auder. This program is free with Museum Admission. In a gallery performance on April 27 at 6:00 p.m. , exhibition curator Tim Barringer will explore in a slide lecture the musical and literary references that inspired Cole, who was himself an amateur musician. This will be followed by a series of works for soprano and piano from Cole's lifetime, performed by Lucy Fitz Gibbon and Ryan McCullough.  This program is free with Museum admission, advance registration is required. 
     Ta Ta Darlings!!! Ti's time to visit not only The Met's Cole exhibit but also to day trip up to the Catskills and visit the Thomas Cole site. The panoramic view from the artist's house is worth the trip just to sit on the veranda and take in the breathtaking landscape. For information contact Fan mail always welcome at  Then, too, visit Polly's home page and in the left hand column are direct links to Polly's Blogs on visionary men, women determined to succeed, poetry and fashion.

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