PREVIEW: Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire, National Gallery

The National Gallery is to present an exhibition examining the work of Thomas Cole depicting the American landscape. 

View of Monte Video, the Seat of Daniel Wadsworth, Esq, 1828
View of Monte Video, the seat of Daniel Wadsworth, Esq 1828. (c)Wadsworth Antheneum/Allen Phillips. 

The British-born artist is best known for his  epic vistas, dramatic natural settings, and imaginative landscapes, depicting nature at its most powerful and the National Gallery will present 58 of his works.

Many of the works that will feature in the exhibition are on loan from the North American collections and will include Cole’s iconic painting cycle, The Course of Empire (1834–6, New-York Historical Society) and the masterpiece that secured his career and reputation View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm – The Oxbow (1836, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).

Thomas Cole’s paintings will be shown alongside works by British artists with whom he was personally acquainted, as well as those who influenced him most, including Joseph Mallord William Turner and John Constable.

Cole was a self-taught artist  from Bolton and is recognised as the father of landscape painting in the US. His career was shaped by his formative years labouring in the textile mills north of Manchester, and by his later study of the European masters whose works he travelled to see in London, Paris, and Rome.

Talking about the exhibition Dr Gabriele Finaldi, Director of the National Gallery, said: “Thomas Cole’s passionate engagement with the landscape of the recently established United States marks a new beginning in American painting. Inspired by the European tradition of Claude, Turner, and Constable, Cole depicted the unspoilt beauty of the American landscape but he also prophesied the dangers of an encroaching urban and industrialised society on it. His concerns remain highly topical today.”

Thomas Cole: Eden and Empire will be on display at the National Gallery from the 11th June until the 7th October. For more information visit:

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