What Lasts

Inspiration MinistriesBy Inspiration Ministries2 Minutes

Born in England, Thomas Cole immigrated to America with his family in 1818 when he was just 17. While working in his father’s wallpaper business, he became interested in art. This changed his life. He received particular inspiration from a visit to the Hudson River area in New York. The resulting landscapes he painted proved his mastery. Soon recognized as a leader of the “Hudson River School,” he became one of America’s first important artists.

But, wanting to be more than just a painter of idyllic scenes, Cole developed what he called “higher style of landscape,” addressing Biblical and literary subjects. Perhaps his most ambitious series was “The Course of Empire,” five paintings that dramatized the rise and fall of an ancient classical state.

The first painting, “The Savage State,” shows a natural environment, untamed, wild, but filled with potential. In the second painting, “The Arcadian or Pastoral State,” development has begun. Modest farming, fishing, and hunting are taking place, and a stately building rises in the distance. The third painting, “The Consummation of Empire,” depicts a city that is bustling, wealthy, and powerful. In the fourth painting, “The Destruction of Empire,” all confidence has been shattered. The empire is under siege and burning. Destruction is everywhere. This leads to the fifth painting, “Desolation,” when all the economic, architectural, and military strength has disappeared. Only the remnants of its former glory remain.

Making his purposes clear, Cole commented that “thus passes the glory of the world.”

The Bible reminds us that the things of this world are passing away. Nothing here remains forever. This is why Jesus taught us not to place our hope in the temporary things of this world. To seek first God’s Kingdom.