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The Use of Landscape as a Means of Commentary - Essay Example

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The Use of Landscape as a Means of Commentary

625), moral or philosophical beliefs. Two authors that achieved this within their work were Thomas Cole and Frederic Church. Understanding the way that these two artists achieved commentary through their work in the 19th century is an effective method of examining commentary in landscape painting within the 19th century as a whole. Thomas Cole was an American landscape painter who was one of a group of artists, collectively known as the Hudson River School. Artists within the school focused on national landscapes as a way of reflecting on their own spiritual values and that of the nation. Their paintings often examined the way that the United States, and its people, was attempting to forge a national culture and identity (Hoy, 2009, p. 6). Another aspect of their work was of the potential for America to become a great nation (Kornhauser et al., 2001). For the American landscape painters, the wildness and uniqueness of their landscape provided a way to express the potential that the country had, as well its history. The United States lacked the long cultural history that their European counterparts had, and as such the landscape provided an effective alternative (Kornhauser et al., 2001, p. 6). Cole lived from 1801 to 1848 and was often referred to as the ‘father’ of the Hudson River School. This term was applied to him because he is considered to be the artist that had the most influence in making landscape painting into a respected and popular genre. Cole’s paintings were not accurate representations of actual views that he observed, instead they were compositions. He argued that the use of composition rather than strict reproduction of the environment did not mean his paintings, or those of his contemporaries, were not of nature. Instead, he considered them to bring together many different parts of nature, making a more complete image than could be attained from a single view (Smithson, 2000). This approach also gave Cole the ability to use his paintings to express viewpoints, and to provide commentary on the world around him and his own particular viewpoints. In his painting The Oxbow, also known by its longer name View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm, Cole presents a landscape view of a particular area of a valley following a rainstorm. The imagery in the piece is interesting, because it consists of two opposite perspectives. The left hand side of the painting is covered in clouds and is darker. The landscape is that of a wildness, forested and untamed. The right hand side of the image is a sharp contrast, and is brighter, consisting of a civilized region, where the wildness is no longer present, and instead there are areas for farms. In the middle of the piece, small and almost unnoticeable, sits an easel. This image can be interpreted as more than a painted representation of the view that the painter saw, instead the painter makes a clear juxtaposition between how the United States was before colonists had made a significant impact and afterwards. The presence of the easel suggests that the artist is attempting to determine the direction that ...Show more
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Summary

The use of Landscape Painting as a Means of Commentary An examination of the works of Thomas Cole and Outline Introduction Thomas Cole Protesting against progression and expansion Devices and composition The Course of the Empire series Fredric Church Travel Lighting as a device Political messages Spiritual messages Spiritual messages Conclusion The birth of landscape painting as a completely independent genre occurred in the 19th century…
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