Thomas Cole (1801–1848)
Tower by Moonlight, 1838
Oil on canvas, 16¾ × 20½ × 3 in.
Thomas Cole National Historic Site, Gift of David and Laura Grey, TC 2014.4

Cole was fascinated with the passing of time and cycles of life. Tower by Moonlight alludes to the poetic push and pull between nature and history. In the foreground of this elegiac scene, young lovers meet under the full moon. Behind them, a sarcophagus and ruined tower, both long overtaken by natural elements, suggest past generations. Here, the past is as much a part of the present moment as this couple, whose lives are also subject to the inevitable passing of time.

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Brooke KrancerTower by Moonlight