Universiteit Leiden

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Gravensteen Lecture | Thomas Cole's Journey: Atlantic Crossings

  • Timothy Barringer (Paul Mellon Professor in the History of Art, Yale University)
Friday 9 June 2017
Pieterskerkhof 6
2311 SR Leiden

Thomas Cole’s Journey: Atlantic Crossings

This lecture explores a trans-regional approach to art history as a revisionist strategy. Thomas Cole is known as the “father” of the “Hudson River School,” the founder of the national tradition of American landscape painting.  Yet his work reveals a different set of preoccupations and investments. Born in the textile-manufacturing city of Bolton, England, at the moment of the Luddite rebellions, Cole was an economic migrant whose family was repeatedly displaced by the developing industrial revolution.  Trained as a pattern engraver in the English mills, he transformed himself from artisan to artist after emigrating to the United States. After a decade he returned to England, where he met Turner, Constable and John Martin, painters of the sublime, before travelling to Italy.  On his return to New York, Cole created a series of works that meditate on cycles of historical development, articulating a critique of industrialization and capitalism based on his Atlantic journeys.  Far from articulating national myths of manifest destiny, Cole’s work can be seen as a jeremiad of displacement and alienation.

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