Overview

Crawford Notch gained notoriety in 1826 when a catastrophic avalanche took nine lives. Nathaniel Hawthorne wrote a short story commemorating the tragedy, which may have piqued Cole's interest in the New Hampshire site. Rather than concentrating on the human drama, the artist minimized figurative elements to underscore man's insignificance and vulnerability in the face of nature's unleashed fury. Amid a seemingly idyllic autumnal setting, the barely discernible settlers, a lone rider, and the stagecoach passengers all seem oblivious to the impending cataclysm. Only the brooding storm clouds gathering at the upper left offer a portentous hint of the disaster to come.

In addition to its oblique reference to a specific historical event, Crawford Notch also reflects a prevailing romantic belief: that the destruction of America's virgin forests was tantamount to sacrilege. By juxtaposing gnarled trees with freshly hewn stumps, Cole vividly underscored the environmental consequences of man's conquest of the wilderness.

Inscription

lower left: T. Cole. / 1839

Marks and Labels

null

Provenance

Commissioned 1839 by Rufus L. Lord [1782-1869], New York.[1] Jonathan Sturges [1802-1874], New York, and Fairfield, Connecticut;[2] his son, Henry C. Sturges [d. 1924], Fairfield, Connecticut; his wife, Mrs. Henry C. Sturges, Fairfield, Connecticut; LeRoy Ireland, Philadelphia, probably early 1930s, but certainly by 1944;[3] purchased June 1944 by (Vose Galleries, Boston);[4] sold 5 April 1945 to Sanitary Scale Company, Belvidere, Illinois;[5] acquired 1966 by (Kennedy Galleries, New York); purchased 25 May 1967 by NGA.

Exhibition History

1840
Annual Exhibition, National Academy of Design, New York, 1840, no. 49, as A View of the Mountain Pass called the Notch of the White Mountains.
1843
Catalogue of Pictures by Thomas Cole N.A., National Academy of Design, Athenaeum Building, New York, 1843-1844, no. 9, as A View of the Notch in the White Mountains, New-Hampshire.
1848
Exhibition of Paintings of the Late Thomas Cole, American Art-Union, New York, 1848, 14, no. 40, as A View in the Notch of the White Mountains of New Hampshire.
1944
Inness and the Hudson River School, Robert C. Vose Galleries, Boston, Massachusetts, 1944, no. 40, as The Notch of the White Mountains.
1945
The Hudson River School, The Art Institute of Chicago; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1945, 60 and 118, no. 64, as The Pass Which is Called "The Notch of The White Mountains (Crawford Notch, New Hampshire).
1948
Thomas Cole, One Hundred Years Later, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, 1948-1949, 13, 27, 37, no. 31, as The Pass which is called "The Notch of the White Mountains".
1960
Paintings, Drawings and Sculpture Collected by Yale Alumni: An Exhibition, Yale University Art Gallery, New Haven, Connecticut, 1960, no. 32, repro., as The Pass Called "The Notch of the White Mountains".
1969
Thomas Cole, Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, New York; Munson-William-Proctor Institute, Utica; Albany Institute of History and Art; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, 1969, 34, no. 39.
1974
Our Land, Our Sky, Our Water: An Exhibition of American and Canadian Art, International Exposition, Spokane, Washington, 1974, 54, no. 1.
1986
En Ny Värld: Amerikanst landskapsmaleri 1830-1900 och ett urval samtida Skandinaviskt landskapsmaleri, Nationalmuseum, Stockholm; Gothenburg Art Museum, Sweden, 1986-1987, 68, no. 26, as Pass in The White Mountains (Notch in the White Mountains).
1990
Loan for display with permanent collection, Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, Connecticut, 1990.
1994
Thomas Cole: Landscape into History, National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; The Brooklyn Museum, 1994-1995, fig. 67.
1998
New Worlds from Old: 19th Century Australian & American Landscapes, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne; Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1998-1999, no. 53, repro.
2002
American Sublime: Landscape Painting in the United States 1820-1880, Tate Britain, London; Museum of American Art of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, Philadelphia; The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, 2002, no. 5, repro.

Bibliography

1840
"The Fine Arts. National Academy of Design." The Knickerbocker 16 (July 1840): 81, as View in the White Mountains.
1843
Lanman, Charles. "Cole's Imaginative Paintings." The United States Magazine and Democratic Review 12 (June 1843): 509, as Notch of the White Mountains.
1844
"A Few Words about Mr. Cole's Paintings." New World 8 (17 February 1844): 217.
1844
"Editor's Table." The Knickerbocker 23 (February 1844): 196, as `The Notch in the White Mountains' of New Hampshire.
1845
Lanman, Charles. Letters from a Landscape Painter. Boston, 1845: 66, as Notch of the White Mountains.
1853
Noble, Louis Legrand. The Course of Empire, Voyage of Life, and other Pictures of Thomas Cole, N.A.. New York, 1853: 96-97, 274.
1949
Thomas Cole, 1801-1848, One Hundred Years Later. Exh. cat. Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York. Hartford, 1949: 13, 27, 37, no. 31, as The Pass which is called "The Notch of the White Mountains".
1954
La Budde, Kenneth James. "The Mind of Thomas Cole." Ph. D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1954: 38, 40-41, 43, repro. 218, as The Notch of the White Mountains.
1956
Hawes, Louis. "A Sketchbook by Thomas Cole." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 15 (1956): 7-8, 10, 20, 21, 22, as The Notch in the White Mountains.
1964
An Exhibition of Paintings by Thomas Cole, N.A., from the Artist's Studio, Catskill, New York. Exh. cat. Kennedy Galleries, New York, 1964: 22, as The Notch in the White Mountains.
1964
Noble, Louis Legrand. The Life and Works of Thomas Cole(1853). Edited by Elliot S. Vesell. Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1964: 67, 204.
1967
Callow, James T. Kindred Spirits: Knickerbocker Writers and American Artists, 1807-1855. Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 1967: 127, 138, 155.
1968
Bermingham, Peter. Jasper F. Cropsey: A Retrospective View of America's Painter of Autumn. Exh. cat. University of Maryland, College Park, 1968: 19, as Autumn-Crawford Notch, New Hampshire.
1969
Stebbins, Theodore E., Jr. "Thomas Cole at Crawford Notch." National Gallery of Art Report and Studies in the History of Art 2. (1968-69):132-145, repro. 132, 140, 141.
1969
Thomas Cole. Exh. cat. Memorial Art Gallery of the University of Rochester, 1969: 34, no. 39.
1970
American Paintings and Sculpture: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1970: 42, repro.
1970
Riordan, John. "Thomas Cole: A Case Study of the Painter-Poet Theory of Art in American Painting from 1825-1850." 2 vols. Ph. D. diss., Syracuse University, 1970: 2:384, 385, as The Notch of the White Mountains.
1973
Moore, James C. "Thomas Cole's The Cross and the World: Recent Findings." The American Art Journal 5 (November 1973): 56.
1974
Moore, James C. "The Storm and the Harvest: The Image of Nature in Mid-Nineteenth Century American Landscape Painting." Ph. D. diss., Indiana University, 1974: 123, 264, color fig. 81, as The Notch of the White Mountains.
1977
Janson, Anthony F. "Worthington Whittredge: Two Early Landscapes." Bulletin of the Detroit Institue of Arts 55 (1977): 203, repro. 204, as Crawford's Notch.
1978
Campbell, Catherine Crawford. "The Gate of the Notch." Historical New Hampshire 33 (Summer 1978): 94, 97, 98, repro. 95, as The Notch of the White Mountains.
1978
Powell, Earl A., III. "Thomas Cole and the American Landscape Tradition: Associationism." Arts Magazine 52 (April 1978): 116, 177 repro.
1980
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1980: 132, repro.
1980
Campbell, Catherine H., Donald D. Keyes, Robert L. McGrath, and R. Stuart Wallace. The White Mountains: Place and Perceptions. Exh. cat. University Art Galleries, University of New Hampshire. Durham, 1980: 42, 43, 44, 74, repro. 45.
1980
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1980: 10, 14, 20, no. 24, color repro.
1981
Baigell, Matthew. Thomas Cole. New York, 1981: 60, color repro. 60-61.
1981
Williams 1981, 108 detail, 111, 112 repro., as The Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch).
1984
Walker, John. National Gallery of Art, Washington. Rev. ed. New York, 1984: 547, no. 825, color repro., as The Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch).
1985
Gerdts, William H. "American Landscape Painting: Critical Judgements, 1730-1845." The American Art Journal 17 (Winter 1985): 56, 59, repro. 32.
1985
Keyes, Donald D. "John W. Casilear: A Series of Drawings of the New Hampshire White Mountains." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 44 (1985): 21, as The Notch of the White Mountains.
1986
Yarnall, James Leo, and William H. Gerdts. The National Museum of American Art's Index to American Art Exhibition Catalogues from the beginning through the 1876 Centennial Year. 6 vols. Boston, 1986: 1:775.
1987
American Paradise: The World of the Hudson River School. Intro. John K. Howat. Exh. cat. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, 1987: 149.
1987
Myers, Kenneth. The Catskills: Painters, Writers, and Tourists in the Mountains, 1820-1895. Exh. cat. Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, New York, 1987: 54, as Notch of the White Mountains.
1988
Parry, Elwood C., III. The Art of Thomas Cole: Ambition and Imagination. Newark, Delaware, 1988: 219, 133, 144, repro. 220, as A View of the Mountain Pass called the Notch of the White Mountains.
1988
Wilmerding, John. American Masterpieces from the National Gallery of Art. Rev. ed. National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1988: 100, no. 27, color repro.
1989
Sears, John F. Sacred Places: American Tourist Attractions in the Nineteenth Century. New York, 1989: 77, repro.
1990
Cotter, Colensa, L. C. "The American Landscape: Changing Views by Three American Painters." M.A. thesis, University of Utah, 1990: 36, 38, repro. 37.
1990
Powell, Earl A., III. Thomas Cole. New York, 1990: color repro. jacket, 95.
1990
Ruskin, Judith A. "Thomas Cole and the White Mountains: The Picturesque, the Sublime and the Magnificent." Bulletin of the Detroit Institute of Arts 66 (1990): 24.
1990
Wilmerding, John. "Thomas Cole in Maine." Record of the Art Museum, Princeton University 49 (1990): 3, 6, 14, as The Notch of the White Mountains and Crawford Notch.
1991
Gretchko, John M.J. "The White Mountains, Thomas Cole, and `Tartarus': The Sublime, the Subliminal, and the Sublimated." In Savage Eye: Melville and the Visual Arts. Kent, Ohio, and London, 1991: 132, repro. 133 and 135.
1991
Troyen, Carol. "Retreat to Arcadia: American Landscape and the American Art Union." American Art Journal 23 (1991): 22, as Notch in the White Mountains.
1992
American Paintings: An Illustrated Catalogue. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 145, repro.
1992
National Gallery of Art, Washington. National Gallery of Art, Washington, 1992: 230, repro.
1994
Truettner, William H., and Alan Wallach. Thomas Cole : Lanscape into History. Exh. cat. National Museum of American Art, Washington, D.C.; Wadsworth Athaneum, Hartford; The Brooklyn Museum. Washington, 1994: 58, 172, no. 67, color repro. 58.
1995
Apostolos-Cappadona, Diane. The Spirit and the Vision: The Influence of Christian Romanticism on the Development of 19th-Century American Art. Atlanta, 1995: 124-127, fig. 20.
1996
Kelly, Franklin, with Nicolai Cikovsky, Jr., Deborah Chotner, and John Davis. American Paintings of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. The Collections of the National Gallery of Art Systematic Catalogue. Washington, D.C., 1996: 87-95, color repro.
2004
Hand, John Oliver. National Gallery of Art: Master Paintings from the Collection. Washington and New York, 2004: 312, no. 251, color repro.

Technical Summary

The support is a fairly rough woven fabric that has been lined. The ground appears to be white and infrared reflectography reveals considerable underdrawing. The paint was applied using a great variety of techniques, ranging from smoothly textured passages, such as in the sky, to loose, energetic, and heavily impasted brushwork in the foreground. Under the mountains and in the stormy half of the sky, a reddish brown imprimatura layer appears to have been used. Generally the painting is in very good condition, with only scattered small losses, some slight abrasion in the sky, and some minor flattening of the highest areas of impasto. The varnish has become slightly discolored.

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