In the 1830s, Thomas Cole, already renowned as a painter of American landscapes, traveled and worked in Europe. Impressed by the many ruins he saw in Europe, he considered a landscape with a ruined tower "ground which has been the great theater of human events." Soon Cole began expressing such sentiments in his art, and ruins became one of his favorite subjects. Cole's romantic sensibilities, and the prominence of ruins in the work of European painters such as Claude Lorrain and John Constable, fired his imagination. This work gives a compelling sense of nature's agitated forces, but it is the looming, solitary form of the tower that dominates the landscape. It pointedly conveys Cole's message about the fleeting fortunes of humankind and the changes of time. Ruined Tower is part of the Albany Institute's premier collection of more than 500 works by Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River school of painting.