Exhibitions/ Thomas Cole's Journey: Atlantic Crossings

Thomas Cole's Journey: Atlantic Crossings

At The Met Fifth Avenue
January 30–May 13, 2018
Exhibitions are free with Museum admission.

Exhibition Catalogue

Lavishly illustrated, this new catalogue provides an important perspective on Cole's stature as an international artist.

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Exhibition Overview

Celebrated as one of America's preeminent landscape painters, Thomas Cole (1801–1848) was born in northern England at the start of the Industrial Revolution, immigrated to the United States in his youth, and traveled extensively throughout England and Italy as a young artist. He returned to America to create some of his most ambitious works and inspire a new generation of American painters. This exhibition examines for the first time the artist's career in relation to his European roots and travels, establishing Cole as a major figure in 19th-century landscape art within a global context.

Thomas Cole's Journey marks the 200th anniversary of Cole's first Atlantic crossing, when he emigrated from England to the United States in 1818, and examines in depth Cole's return journey to England in 1829–31 and his travels in Italy in 1831–32, revealing the development of his artistic processes. Seminal works created by the artist in the years immediately after his return to New York, between 1832 and 1837—notably The Oxbow and The Course of Empire—are presented as a culminating creative response to his complex experiences of British art and society and of Italian history and landscape. In addition, Cole's abiding passion for the American wilderness resulted in his fervent visual warning in these paintings to his fellow American citizens of the harsh ecological cost of unchecked development of the land.

This exhibition brings to prominence the dialogue between American and European artists in the mid-19th century by hanging Cole's work in direct juxtaposition with works he studied on his formative journey, including paintings by J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, among others. It concludes with an examination of Cole's extraordinary legacy in the work of the next generation of American landscape painters whom he personally mentored, notably Asher B. Durand and Frederic E. Church.

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"Perfect exhibition" —Financial Times

"Deeply absorbing" —Wall Street Journal

"Exceptional" —Observer


The exhibition is made possible by The Peter Jay Sharp Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Henry Luce Foundation, White & Case LLP, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and The Mr. and Mrs. Raymond J. Horowitz Foundation for the Arts.

Henry Luce FoundationLogo for White and CaseLogo for Terra Foundation for American Art

It is supported by an Indemnity from the Federal Council on the Arts and the Humanities.

It is organized by The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and The National Gallery, London.

The catalogue is made possible by the William Cullen Bryant Fellows of The Metropolitan Museum of Art.


On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 746

Exhibition Objects


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Presented in conjunction with the exhibition, Pop Art trailblazer Ed Ruscha and artist and author Tom McCarthy will discuss the influence that Thomas Cole's 19th-century landscape paintings has had on their careers.

The conversation will be held on Sunday, April 8, 2018.

Left: Ed Ruscha. Photo by Sten M. Rosenlund. Courtesy of Ed Ruscha and Gagosian

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Thomas Cole (American, 1801–1848). View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm—The Oxbow (detail), 1836. Oil on canvas, 51 1/2 x 76 in. (130.8 x 193 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Gift of Mrs. Russell Sage, 1908 (08.228)