Nature and the American Vision: The Course of Empire – Discussion

Host a small group discussion based on “The Course of Empire” by Thomas Cole. Cole painted this series of five paintings, The Savage State, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, The Consummation of Empire, Destruction, and Desolation, to depict his view of the rise and fall of an Empire taking place across the span of a single day. In each painting nature and human interaction with the environment are depicted. Viewing the paintings from left to right in the gallery, what changes do you notice unfolding in the landscape, weather, and human activity as you move from dawn to dusk? How does human activity affect the environment? How does this compare to human impact on the natural environment today?