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American Lake Scene


Thomas Cole (American, 1801 - 1848)

The painter of American scenery has indeed privileges superior to any other; all nature here is new to Art . . . virgin forests, lakes & waterfalls feast his eye with new delights, [and] fill his portfolio with their features of beauty & magnificence.
Thomas Cole, 1835

Thomas Cole was a pioneer of American landscape painting. Seeking to raise the status of his genre, he argued that a landscape could be the entire subject of a work of art, not merely backdrop for a story: a view that can be linked to America’s growing concern with the spiritual and therapeutic pleasures of the natural world.

Combining a scenic (probably invented) view with a lone Native American figure, this painting is one of a number of works that Cole created towards the end of his life that addressed the issue of the passage of time. The figure can be interpreted not as savage—noble or otherwise, a stereotype that was dominant in then-current representations of Native Americans—but rather as contemplative, pausing to consider the passage of time, symbolized here by the setting sun.

Place object was created: United States

oil paint, canvas

Measurements:    frame height: 25 inches    frame width: 31 inches    canvas height: 18 inches    canvas width: 24 inches    frame depth: 2.75 inches

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. William S. Lowndes 1976.25

Currently on view at Mint Museum UPTOWN