Instead of putting up a TED talk this Sunday, I want to look at art.
1. The Savage State
The English-born American artist Thomas Cole (1801 – 1848) is known for his landscapes and initiating an art movement known as the Hudson River School. The movement was influenced by Romanticism, known for its dislike of aristocracy and the over-rationalization of the Enlightenment. Romantics considered strong emotion as the authentic source of aesthetic experiences. Cole and his own art movement shared a love and respect for the American landscape with writers like Ralph Waldo Emerson and Henry David Thoreau.
The website Explore Thomas Cole has an informative, interactive guide to his paintings. I particularly liked the Decode feature, which gave more information on several features of each painting. Please check it out.
Cole has a series of paintings called The Course of Empire. The first one, above, is a scene depicting life before the beginnings of empire. Elements of nature are dominating the scene, such as the mountain with a boulder at its peak and the looming clouds filling the sky.
The second painting has clearer skies and the mountain with the boulder is not as central.
2.. The Arcadian or Pastoral State
3. The Consummation of Empire
People and activity dominate the scene now. The mountain and boulder hardly even make it in the scene.
Cole’s intentions, influences, personal beliefs, and message are all obvious (or, at least present). His five paintings express a pattern of the growth and decline of civilizations. From our collective knowledge today, we can look back and point to reasons for the growth and decline of empires in our history. However, none of those awe-inspiring empires were able to escape the decline and diffusion of their power while it was happening. None of them had the power to change and halt the pattern. Denial didn’t help. Belief in continued growth didn’t help either.
With the amount of information available now, and the number of people networked together, do you think we could find a better answer to this pattern than Destruction and Desolation? Or should we just accept it is the way of things?
Which painting speaks to you the most?
What do you think?