Study for The Voyage of Life: Childhood

Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
Date: 1839
Medium: Oil on wood panel
Dimensions: 11 3/4 H x 14 W
Provenance: Descendants of the artist to Mrs. Fletcher Williams, Newark, NJ (by 1902), at MacBeth Gallery, New York (1902-1919), sold at American Art Association, New York (April 16, 1919), with Brooklyn Contemporary Art Gallery in 1942, purchased by AIHA from Henry L. Maloney, former director of the Brooklyn Contemporary Art Gallery, September 22, 1942
Credit: Albany Institute of History & Art Purchase
Accession Number: 1942.56.1
Comments: After completing his first series of monumental paintings, The Course of Empire, Thomas Cole settled on an equally challenging sequel. The painting series The Voyage of Life—for which this is a small oil study—uses a stream and a voyager as metaphors for the course of human life. When still conceptualizing the work, Cole wrote that the "childhood" segment would show "the source of a river—issuing from a cave & a child in a boat—with a guardian Angel steering—" The finished series of paintings is in the Munson-Williams-Proctor Institute in Utica, NY, and a replica set by Cole is in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. This work 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.