Picturing America: Thomas Cole
In an industrializing America anxious about changing relationships to the natural world, Thomas Cole's "View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm," most commonly known as "The Oxbow," expresses a fundamental ambivalence about the effects of humans on the American landscape. Though the carefully cultivated farmland is bathed in sunlight while the wild mountainside is lashed by a storm, it is on the top of the far mountain that the Hebrew letters for "Noah" appear. Read upside-down, they say, "the Almighty."
View the video (6 minutes) from Picturing America.
- What was the Second Great Awakening?
- How did religion shape Cole's art?
- How do the human, natural, and divine figure in the painting? How do they relate to each other?
Cole's painting can add to discussions about the relationship between humans and their environment, a theme addressed by the following EDSITEment resources:
- Nature and art: Lessons about Jack London, John Steinbeck, and Stephen Crane offer forays into literature's representation of and relationship to the natural world (grades 9-12).
- Transformations in technology and transportation: Learn about the impacts of railroad construction on rural life, indigenous people, and the environment in this lesson plan: The Impact of the Transcontinental Railroad (grades 6-8). Two additional lessons discuss the first Industrial Revolution: Was There an Industrial Revolution? New Workplace, New Technology, New Consumers (grades 6-8) and Was There an Industrial Revolution? Americans at Work Before the Civil War (grades 6-8).