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Thomas Cole’s World:

The Trip Upstate is Like Diving into a Painting

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Thomas Cole’s majestic landscape paintings can be found in museum galleries everywhere from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC to the Louvre in Paris. But we’re here to let you in on a little secret; you can actually step into these paintings. Many art-lovers are familiar with Cole’s pastoral masterpiece at The Met, View on the Catskill—Early Autumn, but did you know that this idyllic scene is actually the view from the porch of his home in Catskill, New York? It was this special place upstate just two hours north of NYC that proved to be Cole’s ultimate muse. Today, the Thomas Cole National Historic Site is comprised of Cole’s home, studios and grounds. By visiting the site, you can dive into Thomas Cole’s world and discover what this artist was really about.

Thomas Cole, View on the Catskill—Early Autumn, 1836-7, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Thomas Cole first made the trip up the Hudson River from New York City to Catskill in 1825 and immediately fell in love with the wild landscapes of the Hudson River Valley and the Catskill Mountains. In a letter to a friend in 1826, Cole wrote, “I am now in the village of Catskill with the intention of spending the summer here… retired from the noise and bustle of the city and surrounded by the beauties of Nature.”

Today, you can follow in Cole’s footsteps and plan your own trip Upstate. From NYC, the historic site is two hours by car or train and a nine minute drive from the Hudson Amtrak station. When you first arrive, you can’t help but start with the mesmerizing view from the porch of the Thomas Cole’s home. Stand where Cole stood and take in the sweeping views of the Catskill Mountains that he immortalized in the painting at The Met. In fact, Cole was so deeply moved by this very scene that he painted it over 12 times. His paintings are beautiful, but standing here completes the story and you just get it.

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Next, step into the artist’s home and hear his own words in the immersive installation The Parlors. Look around you and wonder at the bold and elaborate interior designs that Cole created to display his paintings “in the best light.” Cole even created decorative paintings on the walls of his home. He was an artist with a strong point of view and no detail was too small – whether on or off the canvas.

Take a walk through Thomas Cole’s Old Studio and experience the Hudson River Valley light streaming through the northern window onto his original easels. Walk through the flower gardens and discover Thomas Cole’s New Studio, a building that Cole himself designed. It’s all coming together now: this really is Thomas Cole’s world.

Jennifer Morse

Now on view through November 4, explore a complimentary exhibition to Thomas Cole’s Journey organized by The Met and the National Gallery, London, in Thomas Cole’s New Studio at the historic site. Our exhibition, Picturesque and Sublime: Thomas Cole’s Trans-Atlantic Inheritance, is presented in partnership with the Yale Center for British Art and members of the Yale University History of Art Department. It explores Cole’s radical achievement of transforming the well-developed British traditions of landscape into a new bold formulation, the American Sublime. And how did he achieve this you ask? Well, through his paintings of the Hudson River Valley that surrounds his home in Catskill, of course.

Support provided by Empire State Development’s I LOVE NEW YORK program under the Market NY initiative.

Jennifer GreimThomas Cole’s World: The Trip Upstate is Like Diving into a Painting