Skip to Main content Skip to Navigation
Master Thesis

Reflets de désirs : l'eau dans l'oeuvre de Thomas Cole

Abstract : Thomas Cole (1801-1848) was an Anglo-American painter and the founder of the first indigenous art movement of the United States: The Hudson River School. One can notice that water ‒ or more generally speaking, everything that is liquid ‒ holds a central place in his work. The aim of this master’s thesis is to determine whether it reflects Cole’s desires and fulfils some of them. A Romantic, Cole shared many ideas with the Transcendentalists and glorified imagination. Therefore, one can presume that water ‒ when considered as a baptismal element ‒ is related to the human soul and the Divine in his paintings. Moreover, he was fond of America, his new country, which he considered an Eden. Thus, one can suppose that he used water ‒ large lakes, rivers, cataracts ‒ to transmit an idealised image of the United States. However, he firmly condemned forest clearance and the impact of tourism in the North East of the country. Water ‒ rain, tempests ‒ allowed him to punish men for harming the environment and for their sinful natures. In addition, the painter feared the passage of time, which he found too rapid. By fixing water onto canvas, did he mean to express the desire to stop time? It is also possible to consider water the reflection of the desire to melt into the lost body of the missing Other, or to experiment with a different form of existence. Finally, it seems that Cole wanted to free himself from constraints imposed upon the artist, be they a painter or a poet ‒ Cole is the author of an abundant poetic work ‒ by searching to find a way to push the boundaries of representation, in both painting and poetry.
Complete list of metadata
Contributor : Uga - Ufr de Langues Étrangères <>
Submitted on : Wednesday, September 23, 2020 - 1:09:41 PM
Last modification on : Monday, January 18, 2021 - 3:14:51 AM


Files produced by the author(s)


  • HAL Id : dumas-02946708, version 1


Amélie Bedois. Reflets de désirs : l'eau dans l'oeuvre de Thomas Cole. Sciences de l'Homme et Société. 2020. ⟨dumas-02946708⟩



Record views


Files downloads