William L. Coleman, postdoctoral fellow, Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences, on Thomas Cole’s Aqueduct near Rome (1832).
Thomas Cole’s monumental view of a ruined aqueduct in the Italian countryside reflects a number of the major preoccupations of his career. While this canonical painter is better known for the images of northeastern US scenery that caused him to be called the “father of the Hudson River School,” canvases like this one testify to the depth of his connection to Italy and to his interest in romantic subject matter, both European and its wilder American counterpart. Moreover, new information that has come to light in recent years about Cole’s extensive involvement in a variety of building projects around the time he made this painting urges a rereading of Aqueduct near Rome as the work of a painter-architect.
Aqueduct near Rome, c. 1832. Oil on canvas 44 1/2 x 67 5/16". University purchase, Bixby Fund, by exchange, 1987.