The Easel

Archives: The New Criterion

9th February 2021

Burning Cole

Temporarily ungated. Cole inspired the landscapists of the Hudson River School. Therein lies a paradox. Those artists, most notably Frederic Church, painted what they saw, allowing nature to “speak for itself”. Cole didn’t. He was anxious that progress would despoil the sacred wilderness and impose a human cost. He conscripted his paintings in support of such ideas. “His compositions were both allegories and real places … science and fiction in equal measure.”