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image:Portrait of ColeFrederic Edwin Church (1826–1900), Portrait of Thomas Cole, c. 1845, pencil on paper, John Wilmerding Collection

Frederic Edwin Church began his career apprenticed to the famed Hudson River landscape painter Thomas Cole (1801-1848). In addition to practical art instruction,  the deeper lessons Cole conveyed about the purposes of landscape painting and the role of the artist in society would have greater and lasting importance.

A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch) by Thomas Cole

Thomas Cole, A View of the Mountain Pass Called the Notch of the White Mountains (Crawford Notch), 1839, oil on canvas, National Gallery of Art, Andrew W. Mellon Fund 

Church never forgot his debt to his teacher. Late in life he wrote, "Thomas Cole was an artist for whom I had and have the profoundest admiration." This small, surely drawn portrait of Cole is evidence of Church's fondness for his teacher. Cole believed the intellect was paramount in creating great works of art. He wrote, "If the imagination is shackled, and nothing is described but what we see, seldom will anything truly great be produced in either Painting or Poetry."


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