Thomas Cole, The Course of Empire (1833-1836)
There is the moral of all human tales;
'Tis but the same rehearsal of the past.
First Freedom and then Glory—when that fails,
Wealth, vice, corruption—barbarism at last.
And History, with all her volumes vast,
Hath but one page.
-- Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
"With The Course of Empire, Thomas Cole achieved what he described as a "higher style of landscape," one suffused with historical associations, moralistic narrative, and what the artist felt were universal truths about mankind and his abiding relationship with the natural world." -- from the Explore Thomas Cole web site
As with Raphael's Stanza della Segnatura frescoes, Cole's Course of Empire does not tell the story of a specific culture or nation. Though Cole presents his ideas in the architectural language of Western culture, The Course of Empire portrays a sequential narrative applicable to all enterprises that become empires.
The Savage State
The Arcadian or Pastoral State
The Consummation of Empire
To view the images and discussion of Cole's The Voyage of Life, click the image below: