The course of empire: Destruction | Thomas Cole | 1836
During the 1800s, in the American intellectual circles, the topic of the “pastoralism” was recurrent. It was like an ideal period in social human evolution. As the concept states, the pastoralism represented a stage in which men lived in close contact with nature, gathering fruits, cultivating vegetables and raising livestock; meeting his needs directly from the earth. It was a utopian ideal, contrary to the notion of civilization, which was associated with industry, money and vices. For sure, this movement had its roots in the European romanticism of that time.
Thomas Cole represented the ideals of this movement through his landscapes, very detailed works with an infinite amount of colors and tones. Along with his followers, he founded the Hudson River School, which worked these motifs. But one of the particularities of the artist was that he liked to work series, it is, separate paintings with a subject that related them. In his series The course of empire, the artist painted 5 canvases that illustrate different periods of a civilization, from the state of nature, going through the flourishment of an empire, until its decay and ruin. Destruction is the fourth painting of the series. In it, we will see an imaginary city suffering an invasion. Fires, killings and chaos are seen throughout the scene, exaggerated by a threatening sky, where clouds mix up with the smoke from the fires. The painting that finishes the series will show the same city, but in ruins.