Author and cartoonist Hudson Talbott has delivered a new picture book: Picturing America: Thomas Cole and the Birth of American Art (ages 6 – 8). It is an excellent biography of the painter who founded the first truly American art movement, the Hudson River School.
Born in England in 1801, Cole came to America after seeing industrialization darken the natural beauty of the English countryside. He fell in love with the American wilderness but eventually saw people and commerce encroaching on nature in his adopted land as well. At the same time, in Cole’s trips to Italy he wondered at the Roman Empire and why it rose and fell. Talbot points out that Cole combined these two influences in his first great series of paintings, The Course of Empire. It is a series of five paintings that once made Cole the most famous painter in America.
Cole’s paintings gave people thought as did his later series of eight paintings known as The Voyage of Life. Talbott ‘s book presents both The Course of Empire and The Voyage of Life in the context of Cole’s birth, move to America, and lifespan. The book includes Cole’s journeys on foot across Pennsylvania, his finding love, and much more. The picture book biography traces Cole’s life to show how he created a new school of painting. Roughly two dozen artists have ties to the Hudson River School.
Hudson Talbott did a great job including an amazing amount of information and detail in a short picture book. He did that in a way that remains accessible to readers in grades one through three.
Ted Macaluso is the author of Vincent, Theo and the Fox: A Mischievous Adventure through the Paintings of Vincent van Gogh for ages 4 – 10. He lives in Reston, Virginia.
Text © 2019 by Ted Macaluso.
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