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The Course of Empire

In the late 1820s, a young painter named Thomas Cole built a successful career by painting landscapes of the Hudson River, but he had ambitions of turning the landscape into a larger purpose. In 1827 he conceived a cycle of paintings that would illustrate the rise and fall of a civilization, and a few years later he began sketching and developing his ideas.

The Course of Empire is a series of five paintings created between 1833 and 1836. Each painting in the series depicts the same landscape at a different stage of the rise and fall of a civilization.

The whole series was intended to serve as a warning about the ambitions of Empire. Later paintings in the sequence show the ruin of the city.

Inspired by the masterpieces he had seen during his travels in Europe in 1829-1832, Cole became anxious to create an epic series of paintings – His work, The Course of Empire captured the American spirit.

America had recently liberated itself from the British Empire - and Cole cautions: that the new state should not fall into the same traps as Europe. More than that, the series expressed Cole's anxiety about the threat of industry and urban expansion to the American landscape.

Thomas Cole transformed the landscape genre to a medium of expressing historical, social, and political theory.


The New York of 1836 was already well along its way to wresting away national, political and cultural dominance from Boston.

“Knickerbocker” writers like Washington Irving and a new generation of artists calling themselves the “Young Americans,” New York became the cultural capital of the United States.

New York Knickerbockerism launched Young America as a full‐​fledged, generational movement of its own. Artist Thomas Cole’s work stands as the best visual representations of the ideas which drove Young Americans.

Born in Lancashire, Britain in 1801, Cole spent short periods in Philadelphia and Ohio, before he permanently settled in New York City. To supplement his family’s meager income, Thomas taught himself to paint landscapes, quickly excelled at his new craft, and caught the attentions of wealthy conservative New York patrons.

Landscape painters generally used their genre as a method of developing man’s moral and spiritual position in the world. Landscapes provided artists an opportunity to advance their own visions of spiritual life, ethics, politics; they were able to present their own theories of social, and historical development.

The radical liberal values turned his city into landscapes of cyclical conflict between liberty and power.

Stage One: The Savage State

The Savage State is dominated by a vast and swirling wilderness. The perfect image of liberty: the lone individual, braving the world on his own, hunting his game across the land unhindered wherever it might go. There exist only the barest indications of civilization or society. There stands at the center of the painting a true natural monument, a great rocky mountain and its scratching the skies. The Savage State of civilization represents the pre‐​agricultural hunter. When man enjoyed his greatest amount of Liberty.

Stage Two: The Arcadian or Pastoral State

For the second piece in the series, Cole shifts the tone of color from dark, and lonely, to light, and hopeful.

Having come far from chasing a single deer through an endless forest, man now herds his own small flocks of animals, cultivates small gardens, and even improves his environment by constructing roads, boats, clothing, and a small town of wooden houses. Most obviously, our subject civilization has introduced social hierarchies along with increasing amounts of power and wealth. In the center stands a lone temple, built of great stone, the smoke of recent offerings pouring from the rooftop. Another mountain, even more towering and imposing than the last, has appeared in the farthest reaches of the background to remind the viewer that the society remains extremely young in comparison to creation timelessness.

Stage Three: The Consummation of Empire

At the height of civilization’s power and glory, the Empire is on full public display. Nature has virtually faded from the scene. What does remain has been thoroughly incorporated into urban life: a fully navigable harbor replete with bridges and vessels of all kinds, a hillside paved over with man‐​made mountains of granite and polished marble temples and manses, no trace of the original forest whatsoever, no wildlife in sight, and our once‐​high mountain now paling in comparison to the vast heights achieved by man’s own buildings and monuments.

As man increased his power over nature, he clearly expanded on organized religious and social life. With the Consummation of Empire comes also the consummation of social hierarchy–visible distinctions between rulers and ruled, priests and laity, rich and poor. While the tone of the painting is unquestionably bright and hopeful, close observers must be aware of the conflicts forming the young empire’s foundations.

Cole believed that history operates in cycles. We are virtually condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past. In our endless attempts to improve our world–to expand both our power over the forces of nature and to protect our liberty, we set in motion a series of destructive conflicts. Man’s time has been marked by conquest and exploitation. The empire has, through the projection of power abroad, exploited and constrained the liberty of its neighbors.

However, history simply did not allow for actions without equal and opposite reactions.

Stage Four: Destruction

Just as no individual human being may escape the life cycle, Destruction suggests that no civilization which has chosen to exercise power may escape the judgment of history. The Empire’s enemies destroy our subjects.

Wholesale slaughter reigns in the streets, makeshift siege engines take the place of crumbling infrastructure, & the mansions and temples once rising to the highest peaks of the visible world now burn to cinders.

Whether the destroyers are rebellious neighbors, or a more powerful empire invading from abroad, one cannot be sure. Regardless, the viewer cannot but feel that the empire has in some significant sense earned its fate. The solitary mountain peak has once again risen above the hillside palaces and captured the center of the frame.

Stage Five: Desolation

The Desolation of Cole’s subject civilization in now complete, and the historical cycle turns into its final phase. The mountain oversees the land and sea. The sky is still; the center of the frame has the lone, pale moon reflecting on the harbor.

There is barely a single stirring of life. For all its incredible strength and wealth during the Consummation of Empire, society’s power could not protect it from collapse.

The tone of Desolation, while somber and lonesome, is also peaceful. Man still exists and gradually learns the lessons of the past, from cycle to cycle, lifetime to lifetime, generation to generation.

We would determine whether the point of consummation or destruction and desolation lay immediately ahead.

Thomas Cole’s influence as an American artist exploded during the mid‐​1830s and his career flourished in the early 1840s. He deeply influenced generations of American artists. He transformed the landscape genre from a reflective art to a medium of expressing historical, social, and political theory.

Can Thomas Cole’s series of painting become prophetic for America?

The BIG news this week is how Wall Street was manipulated by amateur traders.

What is a market?

· Can trade product and services

· Create wealth to eliminate poverty

There are laws against manipulating the Market.

Wall Street hedge funds decided to short some stocks, meaning they were betting certain stocks would go down. However, what happens if that stock does NOT go down?

When it goes from $90 a share to $400 a share, you have to cover that short. That can cause millions and billions of dollars in losses.

That’s what happened this week with Blackberry, AMC & Game Stop. Because of some individual investors, these stocks rose, some over 400%.

· Gamestop up 1,641.9 %

· AMC up 769%, almost in bankruptcy, most still closed

· Blackberry 229%

This was an organized effort .

It is being said those responsible are those under the age of 35.

Why did they do this?

Because of corruption; they want to see the current system crash.

To be a citizen, by definition, means one is a co-ruler NOT a subject. You are to have a say in how government works; that’s why voting is vital.

Because of what happened this week the market will never be the same again.

Wall Street is saying we now need new laws to protect hedge funds.

Redditt, Robin Hood, Amazon, Google, Parlor

Public trust in our financial system is eroding quickly! As is trust in the media and government.

The common person does not want to make money; they just want to see the tables overturned


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