5

Thomas Cole (1801-1848)
The Course of Empire:
“The Savage State” (1834)
“The Arcadian” (1834)
“The Consummation of Empire” (1836)
“Destruction” (1836)
“Desolation” (1836)
Oil on canvas
Owned by the New-York Historical Society

The Course of Empire is a five-part series of paintings created by Thomas Cole in the years 1833–36.

The series of paintings depicts the growth and fall of an imaginary city, situated on the lower end of a river valley, near its meeting with a bay of the sea. The valley is distinctly identifiable in each of the paintings, in part because of an unusual landmark: a large boulder is precariously situated atop a crag overlooking the valley.