Asher B. Durand. Oil on canvas, 1849, 44 x 36 in. Courtesy Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR.
Frederic Edwin Church, To The Memory of Cole, oil on canvas, 1848, 31 ¾ x 47 5/8 in. De Moines Women's Club. View in Scrapbook
Church created this work in April 1848, a month after Cole's death. Church was Cole's pupil and lived at Cedar Grove from 1844-46, where he mastered landscape painting and the technique of sketching outdoors. Drawing on Cole's signature style, Church created To The Memory of Cole to honor his teacher and to offer himself as Cole's successor. The painting shows the Catskills, and the image of storm clouds hovering over the mountains echoes a passage in Bryant's funeral oration: "It is as if the voyager on the Hudson were to look toward the great range of the Catskills, at the foot of which Cole, with a reverential fondness, had fixed his abode, and were to see that the grandest of its summits had disappeared—had sunk into the plain from our sight." The broken tree trunk in the foreground alludes to Cole's frequent use of that form in his work, and the morning light filtering over the scene represents Cole's rebirth, or ascent to heaven. Both Church and Cole were devout Christians. In late career, for example, Cole explored the theme of the lone cross in the forest in The Cross in the Wilderness, and Church used the same motif here in remembrance of his teacher. The wilderness setting for the artist's grave also seems to have been inspired by a poem by John Cole Hagen, entitled "To the Memory of the Late Thomas Cole":
Raise not a stone upon the spot
Where Cole's remains shall rest:
His works will be his monument,
The loftiest and the best.
Lay him among the rugged hills
He ever loved so well;
Let their proud summits be the mark
His resting-place to tell. 1