Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Thomas Cole's Autumn Tour Sept 30, 1828

One hundred ninety-two years ago today...

... Thomas Cole created this delicate artwork on his way to Conway, New Hampshire. Today it can be found at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). For more information see their website here.

Part of our operations at the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room is connect diverse and distant collections to shed light on our shared local history. In this case, we will connect small towns in the Mount Washington Valley with collections in Albany New York, Detroit Michigan and Washington D.C.

Drawn with graphite (pencil) on off-white wove paper with watercolor highlights, this sketch was done on the second of Cole's three trips to New Hampshire. The other visits were in 1827 and 1839. This was his only trip during the autumn. The other two trips were during the summer. 

The 1828 trip is also the best documented.  Both Cole and his traveling companion Henry Cheever Pratt kept journals of their expedition. An article detailing the trip by Catherine Campbell is available through the Conway Public Library's Henney History Room. 

The DIA website allows you to enlarge the image.  The top of the page depicts a finely detailed group of pines. At the top left are five watercolor swatches.

Across the center of the page are some notations including the date and title used by the DIA. While it is hard to decipher all of the text, what I can make out has a very poetic sense to it. 

Just below the autumn colors can be read "Tints from Maples September 30, 1828."

It goes on to read... 

The gradation of colours was extremely beautiful
More brilliant than I have represented

The Maple is one of the most beautiful trees of the American Forest

Its stem rises gracefully with branches leaving it obliquely upwards and bending at the ends as

Beneath the weight of foliage - The foliage is luxuriant in the extreme. ...

...Autumn yellow, orange...  crimson tawny green, rich green, purple and ?

… gradations sometimes in one tree is seen ? the extremities of the

Higher branches orange or yellow in the lower parts and on the extremities of lower branches

The comes the … in the inferior parts. The bark is a delicate gray.


We will continue following in Thomas Cole's footsteps as he explores New Hampshire's autumn landscape.


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