OKCMOA acquires “An Italian Autumn” by Thomas Cole, founder of the Hudson River School

OKCMOA has acquired “An Italian Autumn” by renowned American artist Thomas Cole. This major work by an American master adds to the Museum’s strong collection of American art prior to 1945 and allows for new research and scholarship on Cole and 19th-century American art.

“We’ve long desired a major Thomas Cole painting for our growing collection of 19th century American art,” said E. Michael Whittington, President and CEO. “Cole’s romantic and deeply spiritual vision of the American landscape set a dramatic course that still influences artists today. We are profoundly grateful for the James C. Meade and Virginia W. Meade Acquisitions Fund for 18th and 19th Century American Art and the Beaux Arts Society Fund for Acquisitions for making this purchase possible.”

Cole is considered the founder of the Hudson River School, the first major homegrown artistic movement to emerge in the United States. Born in Britain in 1801, Cole moved with his family to America in 1818. He enjoyed great success by the end of the 1820s through his work painting landscapes in the Catskills region of New York. He went on to pursue a grand tour of Europe, traveling extensively throughout Italy. It was during this trip that Cole found inspiration for “An Italian Autumn.”

“An Italian Autumn” presents a romantic Italian landscape featuring numerous poetic and narrative details. In this large-scale oil painting, measuring 32 by 48 inches, we are shown a theatrical scene in shadow in the foreground while an exquisite sun-soaked landscape remains mostly out of view behind.

Similar to Cole’s work “Voyage of Life,” “An Italian Autumn” exists in two versions, both by the hand of the artist. The other version is part of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston’s prestigious M. and M. Karolik Collection of American Paintings, 1815-1865.

Cole died in 1848 at age 47, leaving behind one of the greatest legacies in American art. His work has been featured in major publications and exhibitions at the Smithsonian, the Tate Britain, the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“An Italian Autumn” will be on display on the second floor beginning March 22 as part of the Museum’s exciting new presentation of its permanent collection, “From the Golden Age to the Moving Image: The Changing Face of the Permanent Collection.” Cole’s painting will headline a new landscape and animal painting gallery that also features works by George Inness, Gustave Courbet, Thomas Moran, Jasper Cropsey, Hans Hofmann, John Sloan, Oscar Brousse Jacobson, Doel Reed and Alexandre Hogue, among others.

Credit: Thomas Cole (American, 1801–1848). An Italian Autumn, ca. 1844-47. Oil on canvas. Oklahoma City Museum of Art. Museum purchase with funds from the James C. and Virginia W. Meade Collections Endowment, the Meade Acquisition Fund, and the Beaux Arts Society Fund for Acquisitions, 2019.001