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Thomas Cole

Aqueduct near Rome


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Known as the father of the Hudson River school of American landscape painting, Thomas Cole created ambitious allegorical landscapes that incorporate figures and symbols to convey moralizing meanings. Aqueduct near Rome is based on sketches of ancient Roman aqueducts that Cole made while traveling in Italy. A meditation on the course of civilization, Cole’s depiction of these ruins symbolizes the rise and fall of an empire, a theme of some of Cole’s most celebrated works. On the left a medieval watchtower, the Tor Fiscale, anchors the composition, while the sweeping arcade of the crumbling watercourse recedes to the far right edge of the painting, the Sabine Hills and Mount Albano on the horizon behind. In the foreground a skull suggests the end to which all life comes, bringing a mood of melancholy to the adjacent pastoral scene of a diminutive shepherd with his dog and a flock of goats. Cole’s careful and deliberate composition suggests a warning about the historical cycle of imperial decadence and destruction and an urging to his young country to avoid a similar fate. [Permanent collection label, 2017]

  • Artist Thomas Cole (American, b. England, 1801–1848)
  • Title Aqueduct near Rome
  • Date 1832
  • Medium Oil on canvas
  • Dimensions unframed | 44 1/2 x 67 5/16 in.
  • Credit line University purchase, Bixby Fund, by exchange, 1987
  • Object number WU 1987.4
  • Currently on View Gertrude Bernoudy Gallery, Room 1

Thomas Cole's Journey: Atlantic Crossings
Thomas Cole: Eden to Empire, The National Gallery (London, England), 06/11/2018 - 10/07/2018
The Metropolitan Museum of Art (New York, New York), 01/29/2018 - 05/13/2018

Real / Radical / Psychological: The Collection on Display
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 09/09/2016 - 01/15/2017

Abodes of Plenty: American Art of the Inhabited Landscape
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 01/29/2016 - 04/24/2016

American Places: Painting the Landscape in the Nineteenth Century
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 09/20/2013 - 01/06/2014

America! Storie di Pittura dal Nuovo Mondo
Museo di Santa Giulia (Brescia, Italy), 11/24/2007 - 05/04/2008

Travel and Tourism in American Culture
Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, Washington University in St. Louis, 09/01/2005 - 10/21/2005

The Lure of Italy: American Artists and the Italian Experience, 1760–1914
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (Boston, Massachusetts), 09/16/1992 - 12/13/1992
The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston (Houston, Texas), 05/23/1993 - 08/08/1993
The Cleveland Museum of Art (Cleveland, Ohio), 02/03/1993 - 04/11/1993

19th Century American Topographic Painters
Lowe Art Museum, University of Miami (Coral Gables, Florida), 11/21/1974 - 01/05/1975

Ninth Exhibition of Paintings in the Athenæum Gallery
Boston Athenæum (Boston, Massachusetts)

Eighth Boston Athenæum Exhibition
Boston Athenæum (Boston, Massachusetts)

Berry-Hill Galleries, Inc, New York

This artwork record may be incomplete or need refinement. Our staff actively researches the collection and revises records when new information is available. If you have questions or comments about this record, please contact us.