Welcome! This in-progress program is currently being tested in classrooms by area teachers. If you are a teacher interested in testing this out with your students and providing feedback to the Thomas Cole Site staff, please get in touch! Email us at education@thomascole.org.

Exploring A River in the Catskills

Enter the Painting and Talk with the People Who Live Here

 Based on the Painting by Thomas Cole, River in the Catskills, 1843

All character dialogue is based on real historic figures and primary sources.

This application is designed to run on desktop computers only

Dive into a painting by Thomas Cole to decode it and encounter differing opinions about land development. At first glance, River in the Catskills, painted by Thomas Cole in 1843, appears to be an idyllic landscape. Yet, it includes ideas concerning the kinds of social, environmental, and industrial conflicts that come with the development of a rural area.

Thomas Cole challenges you to discover why the natural landscape is disappearing.

Talk with the people in the painting and discover the clashing perspectives held by those with varying stakes in the land. Some have been farming their land for generations, while others wish to build a railroad that cuts through that same land. The Creek provides food for one family, while it powers industry for others, polluting its waters in the process.

Can these differences be resolved?

Exploring A River in the Catskills is
A program of the Jack Warner Gateway to Learning: Exploring American History Through American Art

Produced by The Thomas Cole National Historic Site


Made possible by the Warner Foundation.

Additional support provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature, and The Bay & Paul Foundations.


Dialogue text by Hudson Talbott

Design and Production by Andrés Laracuente and Todd Anderson


Researchers, Advisors, and Planning Team: Miranda Barry, Kathleen Brousseau, David Bury, Heather Christensen, Anne Comer, Madeline Conley, Lisa Dolan, Lisa Fox Martin, Tracy Fullerton, Jennifer Greim, Adam Grimes, Betsy Jacks, Brooke Krancer, Maeve McCool, Amanda Malmstrom, Kate Menconeri, Mark Mitchell, Jonathan Palmer, Heather Paroubek, Nancy Siegel, Hudson Talbott, Alan Wallach, Susan G. A. Warner

Image Credits:

Thomas Cole (1801-1848), River in the Catskills, 1843. Oil on canvas, 27 ½ x 40 3/8 in., Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. Gift of Martha C. Karolik for the M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Paintings, 1815-1865, 47.1201. Photograph © 2022 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.


Asher B. Durand (1796-1886), Kindred Spirits (detail), 1849. Oil on canvas, 44 x 36 in., Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2010.106.

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Heather ParoubekExploring A River in the Catskills