listening to some Boys For Pele and thinking fond memories of all those motherfuckers i’d love to throw into a volcano.
María Cristina de Borbón-Dos Sicilias, Reina de España, Detail.
by Vicente López y Portaña, 1830
The Course of Empire is a five-part series of paintings created by Thomas Cole in the years 1833–36.
Comprises the following works:
The Course of Empire – The Savage State;
The Course of Empire – The Arcadian or Pastoral State;
The Course of Empire – The Consummation of Empire;
The Course of Empire – Destruction;
and The Course of Empire – Desolation.
It is notable in part for reflecting popular American sentiments of the times, when many saw pastoralism as the ideal phase of human civilization, fearing that empire would lead to gluttony and inevitable decay.
The series of paintings depicts the growth and fall of an imaginary city, situated on the lower end of a river valley, near its meeting with a bay of the sea. The valley is distinctly identifiable in each of the paintings, in part because of an unusual landmark: a large boulder is precariously situated atop a crag overlooking the valley. Some critics believe this is meant to contrast the immutability of the earth with the transience of man.
A direct source of literary inspiration for The Course of Empire paintings is Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage (1812–18). Cole quoted this verse, from Canto IV, in his newspaper advertisements for the series:
There is the moral of all human tales;
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First freedom and then Glory – when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption – barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page…
Thomas Cole - A View of Fort Putnam - 1825
In New York Cole sold five paintings to George W. Bruen, who financed a summer trip to the Hudson Valley where the artist produced two Views of Coldspring, the Catskill Mountain House and painted famous Kaaterskill Falls and the ruins of Fort Putnam. Returning to New York, he displayed five landscapes in the window of William Coleman’s bookstore; according to the New York Evening Post Two Views of Coldspring were purchased by Mr. A. Seton, who lent them to the American Academy of the Fine Arts annual exhibition in 1826. This garnered Cole the attention of John Trumbull, Asher B. Durand, and William Dunlap. Among the paintings was a landscape called “View of Fort Ticonderoga from Gelyna”. Trumbull was especially impressed with the work of the young artist and sought him out, bought one of his paintings, and put him into contact with a number of his wealthy friends including Robert Gilmor of Baltimore and Daniel Wadsworth of Hartford, who became important patrons of the artist.
Happy birthday to mee