Media Resource

Picturing America: Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole, "The Oxbow," 1836
Photo caption

Thomas Cole, "The Oxbow," 1836

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.

Access the Picturing America lesson plan.

Classroom Connections

Comprehension Questions

  • 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?

EDSITEment Resources

Cole's painting can add to discussions about the relationship between humans and their environment, a theme addressed by the following EDSITEment resources: