Painting and Legacy

A look at the art and influences of the painters, Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Thomas Cole, and John Singleton Copley.

This paper examines how painting, like all art forms, is a product of the period in which it was produced and how artists have also been known to set the pace for other artists, anticipating political and cultural changes. In particular, it explores the work of Lawrence Alma-Tadema, a British artist known for his depiction of Rome; Thomas Cole, an Englishman who moved to America; and John Singleton Copley, an American who relocated to London. It examines how, through their work, Cole and Copley share a cultural background of American society during the Revolutionary period and how both men studied and honored the European roots of their art. In contrast, it shows how Alma-Tadema does this and goes beyond to celebrate the culture in which he found himself.
“Thomas Cole was an Englishman who moved to America in order to paint the landscapes of the west. Primarily a landscape artist, Cole was considered to be a painter of the “romantic” era, a time when pastoral scenes were requested as an alternative to the heavy (dark) portraits and traditional paintings of the baroque and Renaissance periods. Barbara Novak argues that the term, “Romantic” has been generalized specific to describes American landscape art (59). The romantic era was characterized by a “softening” of effects and social norms, prior to the more strict style of the Victorian era. The course of empire, consummation, is a landscape of an ancient Greek city. Filled with the symbols of opulence, the feel for this painting is one of overabundance, to the point of decadence.”