Thomas Cole (American, 1801–1848)
Oil on canvas
39 x 63 in. (99.1 x 160 cm)
Gift in memory of Jonathan Sturges by his children, 1895 (95.13.3)
This pastoral prospect of the Catskill Creek and the distant Catskill Mountains is the largest and most ambitious of several painted by Cole, the father of the Hudson River School. It reflects not simply the wealth and prestige of its patron, the New York dry goods merchant Jonathan Sturges, but the artist's abiding affection for the region whose scenery formed the subjects of the works that launched and helped sustain his career. The creek in the foreground issues from the "clove," or gorge, dividing the range beyond, on a crest of which was located the Catskill Mountain House hotel, a resort that supplied some of the school's clients. Cole moved from New York City to Catskill just the year before he painted this picture, in the midst of completing The Course of Empire (New-York Historical Society), a five-part historical landscape series whose scope and ambition he never exceeded. History also informs the prospect here since, just before he began painting it, a railroad line was built through its very midst, compromising the arcadian charm that had become a memory.