The British immigrant Thomas Cole (1801–1848) is recognized today as the founder of the Hudson River School, an informal group of artists who found inspiration in the American landscape. The Albany Institute has played an important role in elevating the artist to his prominent position in American art, a process that began in 1930 when the Institute received its first works by the great master, Gardens of the Van Rensselaer Manor House (1840) and The Van Rensselaer Manor House (1841), both donated by Katherine E. Turnbull, the granddaughter of Stephen Van Rensselaer III. In 1941 the Institute held the first twentieth-century retrospective exhibition on Cole, and since that landmark exhibition, the Cole collections have grown to become one of the largest and most significant in the country.
The works selected for this exhibition show a broad sampling of the Institute’s Thomas Cole materials, including the artist’s early sketchbook and tree studies from 1823, selections of his Italian paintings, allegorical works, figure studies, manuscript materials, and of course landscapes. Additional works by Thomas Cole can be seen in the exhibition The Hudson River School and the Nineteenth-Century Landscape.