Sep 25, 2017

Visiting the Thomas Cole House

Thomas Cole was born in 1801 in England and immigrated to the United States. By the time the 1800s rolled around most of England and Europe had been turned into farmland or villages and cities so there were very few forested areas.  Cole was enthralled with the scenery of
the Hudson Valley and painted many works of art that personified the beauty and serenity of the area. His work gained him the status as being the founder of the Hudson River School of Art, a movement that flourished in the mid-19th century creating many landscape artists. I think an argument could be made that Cole was the beginning of the conservation movement in New York State.  His paintings were purchased by wealthy people in NYC thus sharing the beauty of the area and changed the way Americans thought about nature. 

John and I visited the Thomas Cole National Historic Site in
Catskill, NY where the visitor center has an excellent video providing back ground on Cole and the Hudson River School of Art. Besides books and reprints they have a place where one can make a postcard using an inked stamp of one of Cole’s painting.  We toured the house which has a view of the Catskills that is still beautiful today. The 1815 Federal-style house has recently discovered hand-painted decorative room borders created by Cole. There are interesting things to see besides his paintings such as a harp played by the wind. Cole,
looking at the Catskills and exploring it on foot, feared the ravages of the axe as more and more people moved into the area and clear cut the land. The mid-1900s was the beginning of industrialization and people did not appreciate the beauty around them – he changed that. He wrote “We are still in Eden… Nature has spread for us a rich and delightful banquet. Shall we turn from it?”  The house also hosts changing exhibits featuring contemporary artists. There is also on the site is the 1839 Old Studio where Cole created many of his works and is furnished with original easels and art materials. A New Studio serves as a gallery for works of art that personify the movement. 

I was familiar with Cole’s landscape artwork of the Hudson Valley area but was surprised by his five-part paintings called “The Course of the Empire” which depicted the rise and fall of an empire from its Eden-like beginnings to the height of the empire to its ultimate decline and decay.  Interesting. The Thomas Cole site is on an art trail that spans from the New England area to Yellowstone. But there is also a local Hudson River School of Art Trail that takes visitors to places in the area that inspired Cole.

John and I decided that we should check out one of the sites so we
went to Kaaterskill Falls, a favorite of Cole and other like-minded painters.  It was a nice short walk from the upper parking lot on a beautiful day. It seems every time we go to a waterfalls it hasn’t rained for a while so the water wasn’t as powerful as it could have been but the view was still beautiful. For those into climbing a lot of steps there is a way to the bottom where there is a pool where someone was swimming. Not for me. Cole said waterfalls were “the voice of the landscape.”