Mind Upon Nature

Thomas Cole’s Creative Process

In Thomas Cole’s Main House

Collection-based permanent exhibition


Exhibition Overview

“… the most lovely and perfect parts of Nature may be brought together, and combined in a whole, that shall surpass in beauty and effect any picture painted from a single view. I believe with you, that it is of the greatest importance for a painter always to have his mind upon nature, as the star by which he is to steer to excellence in his art.” – Thomas Cole to Robert Gilmor Jr., December 25, 1826

With “Mind Upon Nature”: Thomas Cole’s Creative Process, we explore the artist’s working process, ideas, and vision. As evidenced in Cole’s artwork and writing, he was fascinated with art, nature, myth, history, and called for a balance between the natural and built worlds. In this special new installation, visitors will see major paintings by Thomas Cole alongside a rich array of the artist’s sketches, the books and objects that inspired him, and the pigments and materials that Cole used to realize his artworks.

This is a rotating exhibition that highlights important work from the Thomas Cole Site’s collection alongside major works that are on loan from archives and generous private collectors. The installation currently features two major works on long term loan from The Jack Warner Foundation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama: Thomas Cole’s A View of Catskill Mountain House and Autumn Landscape. Each class of Fellows reinvigorates the exhibition by adding new artworks and with it, new research and ideas. Originally curated by Kate Menconeri with Cole Fellows Keith Lebel, Amy LeFebvre, and Elena Ostock. In this new installation, the curatorial team has expanded to also include Amanda Malmstrom, and 2019 + 2020 Cole Fellows: Anne Comer, Marissa Hamm, Hampton Smith, Peter Fedoryk, and Katie Pratt-Thompson.

Major support for this exhibition is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation. We are grateful to Drs. Matthew and Maria Brown; Richard Sharp; W. Douglas McCombs, Chief Curator at the Albany Institute of History & Art; Dr. Susan Gates Austin Warner; The Jack Warner Foundation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama; and the many individuals who made this exhibition possible.


Thomas Cole, 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

Thomas Cole, Landscape with Clouds, 1846-47, oil on canvas, 48 x 72 in., Collection of Bob and Carol Lockyer

Thomas Cole, A View of the Catskill Mountain House, 1845-48, Oil on canvas, 15 x 23 in. The Jack Warner Foundation, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Jennifer GreimThomas Cole’s Creative Process