For Thomas Cole, landscape painting was more than the depiction of scenery. Through his paintings of the vast American wilderness, the artist hoped to stir the viewer to contemplate the natural purity and boundless promise of the New World. Both his art and his missionary zeal inspired several generations of American landscape painters known collectively as the Hudson River school.
Thomas Cole (1 February 1801 – 11 February 1848) was an English-born American artist and the founder of the Hudson River School art movement. Cole is widely regarded as the first significant American landscape painter. He was known for his romantic landscape and history paintings. Influenced by European painters, but with a strong American sensibility, he was prolific throughout his career and worked primarily with oil on canvas. His paintings are typically allegoric and often depict small figures or structures set against moody and evocative natural landscapes. They are usually escapist, framing the New World as a natural eden contrasting with the smog-filled cityscapes of Industrial Revolution-era Britain, in which he grew up. His works, often seen as conservative, criticize the contemporary trends of industrialism, urbanism, and westward expansion.