Thomas Cole (1801–1848)
Hunters in a Landscape, 1824–1825
Oil on canvas, 28¼ × 35½ in.
Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Gift of Dr. Susan Gates Austin Warner, TC.2019.1
In early works like this, probably inspired by Cole’s first hikes through the Catskill Mountains, the artist divides the landscape into distinct visual registers. In the background there is a lake and mountain range. In the foreground, two figures, each dressed in different clothing, perhaps hunters or hikers, meet on a carriage path. One of the most illuminated sections of the painting is a gnarled tree that has three trunks, each in a different stage of life. In Essay on American Scenery (1836), Cole writes: “Trees are like men, differing widely in character; in sheltered spots, or under the influence of culture, they show few contrasting points; peculiarities are pruned and trained away, until there is a general resemblance. But in exposed situations, wild and uncultivated, battling with the elements and with one another for the possession of a morsel of soil, or a favoring rock to which they may cling—they exhibit striking peculiarities, and sometimes grand originality.”