View on Lake George

Thomas Cole, American (born England), 1801 - 1848

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1826

Oil on wood panel

Panel: 18 1/4 × 24 3/4 in. (46.4 × 62.9 cm)

Frame: 25 13/16 × 32 3/16 × 3 7/16 in. (65.5 × 81.7 × 8.8 cm)

Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth: Purchased through a gift from Evelyn A. and William B. Jaffe, Class of 1964H, by exchange

2017.11

Geography

Place Made: United States, North America

Period

19th century

Object Name

Painting

Research Area

Painting

On view

Inscriptions

Signed, dated, and inscribed, lower center: T. Cole 1826; inscribed, in graphite, on reverse: Painted by / Thomas Cole; in graphite, in cursive, on the back: H. Ward / 23 Bond

Label

Thomas Cole painted this view of Lake George, New York, early in his career, just as he was emerging as America’s leading practitioner of the Romantic landscape tradition later known as the Hudson River School. Despite Lake George’s established reputation as a tourist destination and its fame as a battle site in the War of 1812 and the French and Indian War, Cole here depicts it as an expansive wilderness, with no evidence of human settlement. As a threatening storm approaches, we gaze upon the lake’s reflective surface from a rugged, boulder-strewn shore framed on the left by a dead, fallen tree, and on the right by gnarled, craggy trees in full leaf. Such nature-based motifs serve as reminders of the cycles of life and the land’s meteorological—rather than human—history. Cole thereby strengthened America’s romantic identity as a virgin land at a time when such mercantile advances as the 1825 opening of the Erie Canal promised to transform the land through an accelerated pace of expansion, industrialization, and urbanization.

From the 2019 exhibition American Art, Colonial to Modern, curated by Barbara J. MacAdam, Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art


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Thomas Cole painted this view of Lake George, New York, just as he was emerging as the leading US practitioner of the Romantic landscape tradition. Despite the site’s established reputation as a tourist destination, Cole depicted it as untouched “wilderness”—a concept central to the young nation’s identity that ignored the millennia-long presence of Native Americans. 

To what extent did Cole’s engaging landscape imagery influence settlers, explorers, and entrepreneurs to move westward in search of seemingly untouched land and resources? Any such effect would have likely troubled Cole. Having grown up in an industrial region of England, he saw firsthand the environmental consequences of expansion and industrialization. In an 1835 lecture, he expressed sorrow that “the ravages of the axe are daily increasing, and the most noble scenes are often laid desolate with a wantonness . . . scarcely credible in a people who call themselves civilized.”

From the 2022 exhibition This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, curated by Jami C. Powell, Curator of Indigenous Art; Barbara J. MacAdam, former Jonathan L. Cohen Curator of American Art; Thomas H. Price, former Curatorial Assistant; Morgan E. Freeman, former DAMLI Native American Art Fellow; and Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

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Thomas Cole painted this view of Lake George, New York, just as he was emerging as the leading US practitioner of the Romantic landscape tradition. Despite the site’s established reputation as a tourist destination, Cole depicted it as untouched “wilderness”—a concept central to the young nation’s identity that ignored the millennialong presence of Native Americans. Dark billowingclouds heighten Cole’s dramatic fiction, drawing our attention away from the people and boats floating on Lake George during the period.

This painting was commissioned by New York merchant Henry Ward, who derived his wealth by reselling cotton cultivated by people enslaved on southern plantations. New York’s financial success between 1800 and the US Civil War (1861-1865) heavily derived from cotton shipped north and resold to textile factories in New England and Britain.

From the 2023 exhibition Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, curated by Michael Hartman, Jonathan Little Cohen Associate Curator of American Art

Course History

ANTH 7.05, Animals and Humans, Laura Ogden, Winter 2022

GEOG 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ANTH 50.05, Environmental Archaeology, Madeleine McLeester, Winter 2022

ARTH 5.01, Introduction to Contemporary Art, Mary Coffey and Chad Elias, Winter 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

ANTH 3.01, Introduction to Cultural Anthropology, Chelsey Kivland, Summer 2022

SPAN 65.15, Wonderstruck: Archives and the Production of Knowledge in an Unequal World, Silvia Spitta and Barbara Goebel, Summer 2022

First Year Student Enrichment Program - Cultures, Identities and Belongings, Francine A'Ness, Summer 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Anthropology 55.01, Anthropology of Global Health, Anne Sosin, Fall 2023

Art History 40.01, American Art and Identity, Mary Coffey, Fall 2023

Creative Writing 10.02, Writing and Reading Fiction, Katherine Crouch, Fall 2023

Geography 11.01, Qualitative Methods, Emma Colven, Fall 2023

Geography 2.01, Introduction to Human Geography, Coleen Fox, Fall 2023

Geography 31.01, Postcolonial Geographies, Erin Collins, Fall 2023

Exhibition History

American Art, Colonial to Modern, Israel Sack Gallery and Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 26, 2019-September 12, 2021.

American Masters, 18th and 19th Centuries, no. 14 illus. in color as Approaching Storm in the Catskills, Kennedy Galleries, New York, March 22–April 8, 1972.

Liquidity: Art, Commodities, and Water, Israel Sack Gallery and the Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, New Hampshire, July 29, 2023-June 16, 2024.

This Land: American Engagement with the Natural World, Rush Family Gallery, Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire, January 5–July 22, 2022.

Publication History

Thomas Cole, “List of Pictures Painted in New York, 1825–1826,” no. 15 View of Lake George (small) . . . Ward $35,” (Detroit Institute of Arts), as reproduced in Ellwood C. Parry III, The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination (Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1988), p. 22, fig. 1.

Ellwood C. Parry III, The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination (Newark, Delaware: University of Delaware Press, 1988), pp. 39–40, fig. 16 illus.

Erin Budis Coe and Gwendolyn Owens, Painting Lake George (Glens Falls, New York: The Hyde Collection, 2005), in “Census of Nineteenth-Century Paintings of Lake George,” p. 75.

John R. Stomberg, The Hood Now: Art and Inquiry at Dartmouth, Hanover, New Hampshire: Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, 2019, p. 113, ill. plate no. 44.

Provenance

The artist; sold to Henry Ward (1784–1838), New York, New York; to his son, Henry Hall Ward (1820–1872), New York, New York; to his cousin, Eliza Ann Partridge (1814–1902), New York, New York, until 1902; Norman James (1868-1939), Catonsville, Maryland, until 1928; to sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, New York, October 25, 1928, no. 39 as Approaching Storm in the Catskills; Elizabeth Pickett (Mrs. Stuart) Chevalier (1896-1984), Los Angeles, California; [Kennedy Galleries, New York, by 1972]; to private collection, New York; to Hirschl and Adler Galleries, New York, New York, 2016: sold to present collection, 2017.

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