Study for The Voyage of Life: Old Age

Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
Date: 1839
Medium: Oil on wood panel
Dimensions: 12 1/16 H x 13 3/4 W
Inscription: Paper label on reverse: No. 4/AMERICAN ART ASSOCIATION/Lot No. 6/Consignment No. 5
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: 1942.56.4
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 "old age" segment would show "View of a dark ocean—the boat with an old man just entering on it. Chaos and darkness spread before—but through an opening in the clouds a glorious city seen—and seen approaching the old man the guardian who points to the city"" 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.