Analysis Of Thomas Cole's 'The Course Of Empire'

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Thomas Cole was one among many pioneers of the Hudson River School of art, an aesthetic movement that took place alongside the American Romantic period. This movement sought to highlight the beauty of natural landscapes through paintings and to accentuate the beauty of nature over industrial and societal progress. However, ancient ruins were of interest to Cole, and many of his European counterparts viewed America’s lack of ruins as a fault. As a result, Cole created the series of paintings, The Course of Empire to depict a landscape and the subsequent creation and destruction of an empire in that same landscape. It is an allegorical series, one of Cole’s many allegorical series that he was proud of (Kasson). Cole’s The Course of Empire: Destruction (see fig. 1) is the fourth painting in this series and depicts the destruction of a …show more content…
2), Destruction brings in an element of nature back into the landscape. The previous painting is almost completely devoid of nature because it continues to build upon its architectural component and expand the empire’s reach and trade through ships. This idea of progress and expansion counters the ideals of Romantics, who believed in the beauty of nature and the frontier when untouched by humans and industrialization. Additionally, while the mountaintop from the first painting of the series is nearly unnoticeable in Consummation is in the background and, in this painting, Cole depicts a sort of return to nature in Destruction, as the mountaintop from the first painting in the series is visible again. Furthermore, the storm clouds, wind, and fire are all reflections from nature of the empire’s destruction. The weather, however, grows stronger despite the city below weakening, and the fire from the storm is shown to destroy the ships with which had been used in the empire in order to trade and discover new lands to expand the

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