Thursday, January 26, 2012

Cole's "The Course of Empire"

Our discussion in class today about the human-nature relationship within the past, present, and future reminded me of Thomas Cole's five part series, The Course of Empire. Cole depicts the cyclical rise and fall of an empire, moving from the pastoral and human devoid landscape, to a bustling urban setting, to the demise of the human created world, to the aftermath. I think that the perpetual presence of the natural world, even within the dominating city, reminds me not only of the last man standing's dilemma, but also of the eternal existence of nature. As Cole shows, nature - the trees, grass, water, sun, clouds etc.- is the only thing left, even after the complete desolation of the human community.
If nature can withstand the test of time, maybe it has more value even without the presence of human beings. And, from an artistic point of view, maybe this painting shows that there is still (or is more) beauty, solace, and peace without human beings. To me, the calm after the exploitative presence of human beings suggests that the last man standing should not, in fact, set off a nuclear bomb to destroy this scene.

Link to the wikipedia page for this work of art:

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Emma, but I guess the question is still out there . . . what would be the reason you would give that explains what/why setting off the bomb would be wrong? e.g. from within an animal welfare perspective, it would harm animals. that kind of thing. but interesting to think of Cole's work in this context!