In 1818, the youthful Thomas Cole emigrated from his native England to begin a new life in the United States. After several years struggling as an engraver and designer for his parents’ short-lived floor cloth and wallpaper manufactories, he finally embarked on a career as painter of landscapes and settled in the thriving port city of New York. There he found patrons and a welcoming audience for his works that were exhibited at the National Academy of Design and other venues. Now, during the bicentennial year of Cole’s arrival in the United States, this naturalized American artist is being publicly recognized once again at museums and historic sites on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Albany Institute of History & Art is participating in this international celebration by presenting the exhibition, Thomas Cole’s Paper Trail, which looks at this renowned landscape artist mainly through the paper materials he left behind. Selections of Cole’s drawings, prints, letters, hand-written poems, and published works, now part of the collections of the Albany Institute, trace the artist’s career from his first tree studies drawn near Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, in 1823 to letters of condolence sent to his family following his sudden and premature death in 1848.
The exhibition includes the seldom seen painting, View of Featherstonhaugh Estate near Duanesburg (1826), along with two letters written by Cole to his early patron and fellow English immigrant, George William Featherstonhaugh, who invited Cole to spend the winter of 1825/26 at his home in Duanesburg, New York. The painting and letters are on loan for this exhibition from the Featherstonhaugh Family Trust and offer a rare look at Cole’s early commissions.
Other paintings by Thomas Cole and works from fellow landscape artists such as Frederic Church, Asher Durand, and Jasper Cropsey can be seen in the adjoining Hudson River School exhibition.
The Metropolitan Museum of Art began 2018 by celebrating Cole with a major exhibition, Thomas Cole's Journey, that ended in May and was accompanied by a catalog.
Also on view, through Sept. 30, “Thomas Cole and the Garden of Eden” is at the Fenimore Art Museum in Cooperstown, NY.
Through Nov. 4, “Picturesque and Sublime: Thomas Cole’s Trans-Atlantic Inheritance,” is at the Thomas Cole National Historic Site.