1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Cole, Thomas
COLE, THOMAS (1801–1848), American landscape painter, was born at Bolton-le-Moors, England, on the 1st of February 1801. In 1819 the family emigrated to America, settling first in Philadelphia and then at Steubenville, Ohio, where Cole learned the rudiments of his profession from a wandering portrait painter named Stein. He went about the country painting portraits, but with little financial success. Removing to New York (1825), he displayed some landscapes in the window of an eating-house, where they attracted the attention of the painter Colonel Trumbull, who sought him out, bought one of his canvases, and found him patrons. From this time Cole was prosperous. He is best remembered by a series of pictures consisting of four canvases representing “The Voyage of Life,” and another series of five canvases representing “The Course of Empire,” the latter now in the gallery of the New York Historical Society. They were allegories, in the taste of the day, and became exceedingly popular, being reproduced in engravings with great success. The work, however, was meretricious, the sentiment false, artificial and conventional, and the artist’s genuine fame must rest on his landscapes, which, though thin in the painting, hard in the handling, and not infrequently painful in detail, were at least earnest endeavours to portray the world out of doors as it appeared to the painter; their failings were the result of Cole’s environment and training. He had an influence on his time and his fellows which was considerable, and with Durand he may be said to have founded the early school of American landscape painters. Cole spent the years 1829–1832 and 1841–1842 abroad, mainly in Italy, and at Florence lived with the sculptor Greenough. After 1827 he had a studio in the Catskills which furnished the subjects of some of his canvases, and he died at Catskill, New York, on the 11th of February 1848. His pictures are in many public and private collections. His “Expulsion from Eden” is in the Metropolitan Museum in New York.