Landscape (Landscape with Tree Trunks)
Thomas Cole, American, Landscape (Landscape with Tree Trunks), 1828, Oil on canvas; 66.4 x 81.9 cm (26 1/8 x 32 5/16 inches), Walter H. Kimball Fund 30.063
During his trips to the Catskills of New York and the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Cole explored the theme of unspoiled nature in a land he perceived to be ripe with promise. His early compositions combined topographical accuracy with acute observation. In this landscape of 1828, European conventions of the sublime and picturesque also come into play. Nature’s drama unfolds as storm clouds part to reveal a mountaintop bathed in sunlight. A blasted tree, representing the vulnerability of living things and the cycle of life and death, mediates between heaven and earth. A Native American, nearly invisible to the eye at the top of the waterfall, animates the scene and represents physical and spiritual kinship with the landscape.