American landscape painting came of age in the mid-nineteenth century. Cole and his colleagues carefully recorded every aspect of nature, from the blazing sunset to the humblest plant, and were also instrumental in creating a new lyrical spaciousness in landscape painting. Like many other artists of his generation, Cole sought to express the spiritual in the actual. Here, a small lake, a cloudless sky, a fallen tree, and a lone Indian evoke the peace and tranquility of the American wilderness.
Artist Thomas Cole, American, 1801-1848
  • American Lake Scene
Date 1844
Medium oil on canvas
Dimensions Framed: 27 1/8 × 33× 4 inches (68.9 × 83.8 × 10.2 cm)
Unframed: 18 1/4 × 24 1/2 inches (46.4 × 62.2 cm)
Credit Line Gift of Douglas F. Roby
Accession Number 56.31
Department American Art before 1950
On View American W280, Level 2 (see map)
Signed Signed and dated, at right, lower center of island: T. Cole 1844
American Art Union.
Young Men's Mercantile Association (Cincinnati, Ohio, USA).
T. L. Ogden (New York, New York, USA);
a descendant of Ogden.
John J. Bowden (Long Island, New York, USA).
Douglas F. Roby (Ypsilanti, Michigan, USA);
1956-present, gift to the Detroit Institute of Arts (Detroit, Michigan, USA)

The American Art-Union. Exh. cat. New York, 1844, no. 7.

Cowdrey, Bartlett. "The American Academy and American Art Union Exhibition Record." Bulletin of the New-York Historical Society 7 (1953): p. 81.

Grigaut, Paul L. "An American Lake Scene by Thomas Cole." Bulletin of the DIA 35, 4 (1955-1956): pp. 88-90.

Woods, Willis F., ed. Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts: A Checklist of the Paintings Acquired Before June 1965. Detroit, 1965, p. 26.

The Painter and the New World. Exh. cat., The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts. Montreal, 1967, no. 318.

Cummings, Frederick J., and Charles H. Elam, eds. DIA Illustrated Handbook. Detroit, 1971, p. 139.

Huntington, David C. Art and the Excited Spirit. Exh. cat., University of Michigan of Art. Ann Arbor, 1972, p. 34, no. 39 (pl. 69).

The American Frontier: Images and Myths. Exh. cat., National Collection of Fine Arts, Smithsonian. 1973.

Sweeney, J. Gray. Great Lakes Marine Painting of the Nineteenth Century. Exh. cat., Muskegon Museum of Art. Muskegon, MI, 1983, pp.38-39 (ill.).

Shaw, Nancy Rivard et al. American Paintings in the Detroit Institute of Arts, Vol. 1. New York, 1991, cat. 17, pp. 50-53 (ill.).

The Course of Empire. Exh. cat., National Museum of American Art. 1994.

American Beauty: Painting and Sculpture from the Detroit Institute of Arts, 1770-1920. Exh. cat., Detroit Institute of Arts. Detroit, 2002, pp. 48-49, no. 32 (ill.).