Creativity blossomed for a young English artist who wanted to “paint America,” after his family was forced to move to the United States. “Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art,” by Hudson Talbott, details Cole’s contributions to a style of artwork he gave birth to in the 1800s.
Growing up as a boy in Bolton, England, Cole relished painting what he saw outdoors. He’d heard about America and its “vast wilderness” but didn’t think he’d ever get there — that changed when the Industrial Revolution replaced British “people with machines.” Seeking work, the Cole family headed to Pennsylvania, then to Ohio and finally New York City, where Cole visited the Hudson Valley.
What he saw there set his soul on fire, the “vast wilderness” he’d envisioned became his dream come true as he turned out painting after painting, establishing “a style of art that was 100 percent American,” stated John Trumbull, another famous artist of the day. Detailed illustrations highlight Cole’s life, and reproductions of his paintings show “ . . . America, the beautiful” in all her resounding glory.