Friday, July 27, 2007

Growth - Boom - Bust

The New York Historical society has a superb exhibition going on at their sprawling museum close to Central Park. In an exhibition titled “Nature and the American Vision: The Hudson River School at the New York Historical Society”, the museum has managed to roof paintings from the likes of Asher B. Durand, Albert Bierstadt, Gil Stuart, George Henry Boughton, and Thomas Worthington Wittredge under its auspices.

The real reason why anyone around the area need to make it to this show is because they have shown Thomas Cole’s five work masterpiece "Course of Empire". This set of paintings has been compared to the creation of the Central Park.

The five paintings are:

"The Savage State" (hunter gatherers foraging under forbidding skies)
"The Pastoral State" (natives acquire temple and landscaping skills)
"Consummation" (nature overrun by classical architecture)
"Destruction" (the state is swallowed by tempests of smoke and fire)
"Desolation" (state - a rubble pile with decayed humanity)

Sitting on the shoulders of giants, see here for a description of Ed Ruscha's 'Course of the Empire' paintings at the 2007 Venice Biennial.

It is funny when you consider that the United States of today is in one of these states.

Which one depends on your point of view…

1 comment:

Tree said...

I was excited to read about this exhibit and I wish I lived close enough to see it. I was lucky enough to lecture a couple of times on Thomas Cole's work, including this series. He was very didactic but I will always have a fondness for his Oxbow painting. Did you know that one of the reasons he painted this series was because of his and others' fears of the populist president Andrew Jackson? I sometimes think Bush is another Jackson...