Whither The Course Of Empire?

In five dramatic allegorical paintings, Thomas Cole echoed the fear of Americans, over a century ago, that all civilizations, our own included, must someday perish.

Shortly before his death James Fenimore Cooper left off scolding his countrymen long enough to heap praises on the memory of his late friend Thomas Cole. Not only was Cole “the highest genius this country has ever produced” but also, in Cooper’s estimation, his The Course of Empire, the series of five paintings, was “one of the noblest works of art ever wrought.” He went on to predict that these canvases would one day be valued at fifty thousand dollars.Read more »