Cole's Circle


Allston, Washington (1779-1843)

American Romantic poet and a pioneering painter of allegorical and pastoral landscapes, Allston is best known for his dramatic subject matter and idealized landscape views. Although Cole's relationship with Allston was limited, it is evident from one of Cole's journal entries, in which he mourns Allston's death, that he greatly admired the older painter for his "highly prized" and beautiful works of art.


Bartlett, William Henry (1809-54)

English artist who traveled to the United States in 1836 to create drawings of American scenes for the volume American Scenery, or Land, Lake, and River Illustrations of Transatlantic Nature, published in 1840 and considered one of the most widely influential books of landscape views in the nineteenth century. Bartlett sketched many of the same views as Thomas Cole, such as The Caaterskill Falls from Below (c.1830s).

Bartow, Maria (1813-84)

Cole's wife and the mother of his five children. Cole met Maria at Cedar Grove, where she lived with her uncle, John A. (Sandy) Thomson. They were married in the Main House at Cedar Grove in Catskill in 1836. Maria bore: Theodore (Theddy), Mary, Emily, Elizabeth (who died in infancy) and Thomas Cole II (born seven months after his father's death). She is depicted in Cole, Portrait of the Artist's Wife (1836-48).

Bayless, William Henry (c. 1820-?)

Thomas Cole's nephew, an Ohio-born architect who studied under Cole's patron Ithiel Town and Andrew Jackson Davis. Cole became Bayless's legal guardian in 1835, and Bayless drew up Cole's designs for the Ohio State House competition in 1838. Their relationship became strained soon afterwards, when the two men joined together in an unfortunate business deal that cost Cole a great deal of money.

Bryant, William Cullen (1794-1878)

American journalist and poet, editor/owner of The New York Evening Post, and frequent contributor to The Knickerbocker magazine. Both Bryant and Cole came to New York City in 1825, meeting at the Bread and Cheese Club, where they began a lifelong friendship with fellow artist Asher B. Durand. Bryant, like James Fenimore Cooper, sought to create a uniquely American style of literature, although he was equally entranced by the antiquities of Europe and often gave lectures on Greek and Roman mythology at the National Academy of Design. Bryant is perhaps best known for "Thanatopsis," a poem that explores themes of mortality, similar to those addressed by Cole in his work. Bryant gave Cole's funeral oration at the National Academy following the artist's death in 1848.


Church, Frederic Edwin (1826-1900)

Hudson River School painter and student of Thomas Cole. In 1844, Daniel Wadsworth wrote to Cole, asking him to take the promising Church as a pupil. Church proved his worthiness, and within a year he was exhibiting landscapes at the National Academy of Design alongside his teacher. Church became famous for his monumental paintings of South America, exhibited to much excitement and acclaim in 1855. In 1860, Church bought a tract of land overlooking the Hudson River not far from Cedar Grove. He began building Olana, a "Persian"-style home that he largely designed himself. Olana is now a National Historic Landmark and open to the public. Church was devastated by Cole's sudden death in 1848; that year he painted To The Memory of Cole and taught Theodore Cole to farm and maintain Cedar Grove so that he could provide an income for Cole's widow, Maria Bartow, and their family. See Frederic E. Church.

Cooper, James Fenimore (1789-1851)

New York novelist and founder of the Bread and Cheese Club, Cooper was a contemporary of Cole's and a prominent figure in the development of an original American literary tradition. His series of Leatherstocking novels, such as The Pioneers (1823), included some of the first descriptions of the wild Catskill scenery and encouraged tourism to the area. In 1827, Cole created a series of paintings illustrating scenes from one of Cooper's most famous novels, The Last of the Mohicans (1826). See John Wesley Jarvis, Portrait of James Fenimore Cooper.

Cropsey, Jasper Francis (1823-1900)

Hudson River School painter and architect, who studied at the National Academy of Design in the 1840s. The work of Cole and Durand had a great impact on Cropsey, who often painted similar locations in New York, such as in Catskill Mountain House (1855) and Autumn on the Hudson River (1860). Like Frederic Church, Cropsey designed and built his own house and studio, named Aladdin, located in Warwick, New York. The house proved too costly to maintain, and Cropsey moved to Ever Rest in Hastings-on-Hudson where he adapted the Aladdin design into a studio addition. Ever Rest, like Cedar Grove and Olana, is now open to the public. See Jasper F. Cropsey.


Durand, Asher B. (1796-1886)

American engraver, portraitist, and Hudson River School landscape painter who, along with John Trumbull, bought one of Cole's paintings in 1825. Durand, Cole, and poet William Cullen Bryant maintained a close friendship throughout their lives, joined by their mutual involvement in American arts and culture. Durand helped to found the National Academy of Design, acting as its president from 1845-61. It was Cole who first persuaded Durand to begin landscape painting and taught him how to sketch outdoors, and together the two artists took many summer sketching trips to the Catskill, White, and Adirondack mountains. Durand painted Kindred Spirits (1849) after Cole's death, forever memorializing the friendship of the three men. See John Trumbull, Asher B. Durand and Asher B. Durand.


Featherstonhaugh, George William (1780-1866)

English-born aristocrat, Featherstonhaugh (pronounced "Fan-shaw") was one of Cole's first patrons. Cole stayed with Featherstonhaugh on his Schoharie River estate during the winter of 1825-26, where he worked on the many commissions he had received the previous year. The relationship between Featherstonhaugh and Cole deteriorated soon after, due to Featherstonhaugh's supposed poor treatment of his guest. Cole may have painted Falls of the Kaaterskill (1826) during his stay at Featherstonhaugh's estate. See Cole, Landscape, the Seat of Mr. Featherstonhaugh in the Distance.


Gellée, Claude (c.1600-82)

Commonly known as Claude Lorrain, French-born landscape painter of the Baroque period, who worked predominantly in Rome. Cole was deeply influenced by Claude's paintings of beautiful and pastoral landscapes. Claude's works are particularly admired for their soft brushwork, pastel color palette, and framing motifs. Upon seeing Claude's work in Europe, Cole began to incorporate these techniques into his own work, such as in The Course of Empire: The Arcadian or Pastoral State (1834) and View on the Catskill, Early Autumn (1837).

Gifford, Sanford Robinson (1823-80)

Hudson River School painter and member of the National Academy of Design, where he took drawing lessons as a young aspiring artist. Like Asher B. Durand, Gifford turned from portrait to landscape painting after going on several sketching trips to the Catskills. Gifford may be considered a second-generation Hudson River School painter, turning away from Cole’s dramatic painting style in favor of a more subdued approach. A classic example of Gifford’s luminist work is Kauterskill Clove (1862). See Sanford R. Gifford.

Gilmor, Jr., Robert (1774–1848)

Merchant and prominent nineteenth-century art collector from Baltimore. One of Cole's early patrons, Gilmor commissioned A Wild Scene in 1831, which became the basis for The Course of Empire: The Savage State (1834). The correspondence between Gilmor and Cole reflects their conflicting opinions about composition and subject matter, and Cole often struggled with the difficult decision of whether to exercise his artistic autonomy or to paint exclusively to meet his patron's requirements.


Hone, Philip (1781-1851)

Successful merchant from New York City and one of Cole's earliest patrons. Hone was an honorary member of the National Academy of Design and an important patron of contemporary American art. He particularly admired Cole's accomplishments in the landscape painting movement. Hone acted as mayor of New York City from 1825-26, and afterwards was appointed a naval officer by President Taylor.


Inness, George (1825-94)

Hudson River School painter deeply influenced by Thomas Cole's work; first exhibited at the National Academy of Design in 1844. Inness, like Cole, firmly believed that nature evidenced the glory of the divine, and his landscapes often have a spiritual significance, such as The Valley of the Shadow of Death (1867). See Edwin S. Bennett, George Inness in his New York City Studio.


Jackson, Andrew (1767-1845)

President of the United States from 1829-37, Jackson came from a humble, rural background and espoused a new populism and enthusiasm for industrial expansion, commercial development, and materialism. These expansionist, utilitarian, and democratic policies defined Jacksonian America, and were bitterly opposed by Cole and his well-heeled patrons.


Moore, Charles Herbert (1840-1930)

Hudson River School painter, and later, professor of fine arts at Harvard and the first director of the Fogg Art Museum. At the age of eighteen, Moore had already taught drawing and painting at New York University and exhibited paintings at the National Academy of Design. Although it seems that Moore may have disliked Cole's romantic style, he became close friends with Cole's youngest son, Thomas Cole II, and moved to Catskill in 1865. There he designed and built his own house, The Lodge, and painted the surrounding Catskill scenery. Moore was also known for his writings on Gothic and Renaissance architecture.


Noble, Reverand Louis Legrand (1813-82)

Cole's close friend and pastor at St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Catskill. Noble baptized Cole and his wife Maria Bartow in 1844, thus reaffirming their Christian faith. Noble also acted as Cole's biographer, publishing The Life and Works of Thomas Cole in 1853, one of the most important early sources for Cole's life, thoughts, and correspondence.


Reed, Luman (1785-1836)

Self-made New York merchant with a passion for collecting contemporary American art, Reed was a close friend and mentor to Cole. He commissioned some of Cole's greatest works, including The Course of Empire (1834-36). Cole was devastated by Reed's death midway through the completion of the series in 1836.

Rosa, Salvator (1615-73)

Italian painter, printmaker, and poet of the Baroque era, best known for his landscape paintings and proto-Romantic style. Rosa's innovative and rugged landscape paintings correspond to his rebellious reputation; he often refused to paint on commission or set prices, a practice unheard of in his time. During his travels in Europe, Cole was drawn to the sublime nature of Rosa's jagged rocks and broken tree branches, and he frequently emulated them in his own work. Like Cole, Rosa felt that historical and religious paintings were "higher" forms of art and often preferred them to landscape views.


Smillie, James (1807-85)

Engraver of Scottish descent and member of the National Academy of Design. Smillie moved to New York in 1829, not long after Cole first arrived there. Smillie earned distinction for his engravings of famous American landscape paintings, and in the 1850s he created reproductions of Cole's series The Voyage of Life. Smillie turned to the engraving of banknotes in the 1860s.

Sturges, Jonathan (1802-74)

One of Cole's patrons and Luman Reed's business partner. Sturges commissioned View on the Catskill, Early Autumn in 1837 and praised its vision of Catskill before modernization, although he later became a major financial supporter of railroad construction in the 1850s. Sturges also commissioned Asher B. Durand to paint Kindred Spirits following Cole's death in 1848, giving the painting to William Cullen Bryant as thanks for delivering a eulogy for Cole at the National Academy of Design. See Asher B. Durand, Jonathan Sturges.


Talbot, Charles N. (1802-74)

Leader in New York's China trade and member of the mercantile elite, Talbot was also a supporter of the American Bible Society and a Protestant activist. Talbot bought View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm (The Oxbow) from Cole after seeing it in the National Academy of Design annual exhibition of 1836, associating it with his own Christian values.

Town, Ithiel (1784-1844)

Prominent American architect, and one of the original members of the National Academy of Design. Town and his partner, Andrew Jackson Davis, were leaders of the Greek and Gothic Revival movements during the nineteenth century. Town instructed Cole's nephew William Henry Bayless in architectural drawing and unsuccessfully competed against Cole for the design of the Ohio State House. Town's firm designed the Wadsworth Atheneum in the Gothic Revival style for Cole's patron Daniel Wadsworth. Cole painted The Architect's Dream in 1841 for Town, who ultimately rejected the painting because it was "exclusively architectural."

Trumbull, Col. John (1756-1843)

Soldier in the Revolutionary War and an American history painter best known for The Declaration of Independence (1786-97), Trumbull also acted as president of the American Academy of Fine Arts from 1816-25. He bought one of Cole's early landscape paintings in 1825 and is quoted as saying, "This youth has done at once, and without instruction, what I cannot do after fifty years practice." Trumbull went on to introduce Cole to many other important patrons, including his nephew-in-law Daniel Wadsworth and to the artist Asher B. Durand. See also Asher B. Durand's engraving John Trumbull.

Turner, Joseph Mallord William (1775-1851)

British landscape painter working in both oil and watercolor, whose pictures greatly impressed Cole when he viewed them on his first trip to Europe in 1829-1831. Turner, like Cole, sought to incorporate mythological and historical events into his work, which is often defined by its dramatic effects of light and color. Cole viewed Turner's Dido Building Carthage, or the Rise of the Carthaginian Empire (1815) in his London studio in 1829, later alluding to it in his The Course of Empire: Consummation (1835-1836).


Wadsworth, Daniel (1771-1848)

Son of a wealthy merchant, Wadsworth used his sizable inheritance to support charities and the arts. In 1844, he founded the Wadsworth Atheneum, a vast repository of artwork in Hartford, Connecticut, which includes many of Thomas Cole's paintings. See E.B. and E.C. Kellogg, Wadsworth Atheneum, Main Street, Hartford (c. 1842-6). Wadsworth met Cole through his uncle-in-law, John Trumbull, in 1826, and the two men quickly become friends, maintaining correspondence for many years. Wadsworth was a kind and beneficent patron of Cole throughout his career, and Mount Etna from Taormina (1843) was acquired by his newly established museum in 1844. See Thomas Sully, Daniel Wadsworth.

Wall, William Guy (1792-1864)

Irish-born landscapist who moved to New York in 1818 and painted the Hudson River Valley during the summer of 1820. Engravings after Wall's topographical watercolors were featured in John Hill's Hudson River Portfolio, one of the first collections of American landscape views. After the book's publication, Wall continued to split his time between Ireland and New York and was one of the founding members of the National Academy of Design.

Ward, Samuel (1786-1839)

Successful New York banker and member of the Federalist aristocracy. Ward, an Evangelical Christian and the first president of the New York Temperance Society, shared religious convictions with Cole, a member of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Catskill. Ward was deeply concerned about the evils of society and commissioned Cole to create his great series The Voyage of Life (1839-40) for his personal art gallery in New York City, with the hopes that the paintings would instruct his children and his guests in Christian morals. See Abraham Hosier, The Residence of Samuel Ward, Sr.