Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School
Catskill Creek, N.Y.
Catskill Creek, N.Y.
Oil on canvas
Overall: 26 1/2 x 36 in. ( 67.3 x 91.4 cm )Framed: 37 5/8 x 47 5/8 x 4 1/2 in. ( 95.6 x 121 x 11.4 cm )
The Robert L. Stuart Collection, on permanent loan from the New York Public Library
The Catskill Mountains were an important subject for Cole from the beginning of his career; in 1836 he moved to the village of Catskill on the west bank of the Hudson River, and the distinctive undulating mountain peaks were a regular motif in his work. In this painting from his late career, the artist acknowledged the encroachment of civilization on his beloved mountains, but nonetheless depicted them as a haven where man and nature could harmoniously co-exist. From the 1820s on, the Catskill area became an increasingly popular tourist destination and commercial enterprise made inroads as well, to Cole's grave concern. In 1836 the Canajoharie & Catskill Railroad begin clearing land for a 26-mile line. In a letter that year to his patron Luman Reed, Cole fumed at "the dollar-godded utilitarians" who were cutting down trees in the valley. In this autumnal twilight view, the ax-hewn tree in the left foreground is a pointed reminder of man's presence, and the smoke in the background, carefully placed at the center of the composition, hints ominously at growing industry in the area. However, the viewer's eye ultimately rests upon the foreground figure pulling his small boat from the water as a companion, almost hidden in the rocks, gestures toward the still-wild, primeval woods.
Stillman & Durand, eds., "Sketchings," The Crayon, Vol. III, No. 2, February 1856, pp. 123, 57 Koke, Richard J., American Landscape and Genre Paintings in the New-York Historical Society, Vol. I, New York: The New-York Historical Society, 1982, p. 207. Maddox, Kenneth W., "Thomas Cole and the Railroad: Gentle Maledictions," Archives of American Art Journal, Vol. 26, No. 1, 1986, pp. 2-10. Sweeney, J. Gray, '"Endured with Rare Genius:' Frederic Edwin Church's 'To the Memory of Cole,"' Smithsonian Studies in American Art, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Winter, 1988), p. 48. Powell, Earl A., Thomas Cole. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., 1990, p. 112. Koja, Stephan, Ed. AMERICA: The New World in 19th-Century Painting, Munich: New York: Prestel, 1999, p. 74. Ledes, Allison E., ed. "The Magazine Antiques: January 2005." New York: Brant Publications, Inc., 2005.
Due to ongoing research, information about this object is subject to change.