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The Oxbow, Oil by Thomas Cole (1801-1848, United Kingdom)

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The Oxbow

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View from Mount Holyoke, Northampton, Massachusetts, after a Thunderstorm, commonly known as The Oxbow, is a painting by Thomas Cole. The painting moves from a dark wilderness with shattered tree trunks on rugged cliffs in the foreground covered with violent rainclouds on the left to a light-filled and peaceful, cultivated landscape on the right, which borders the tranquility of the bending Connecticut River. In returning to painting landscapes, Cole was faced with the dichotomy of the untamed wilderness and land cultivated by man. While other painters of the Hudson River School would merge the two peacefully, Cole did not shy away from portraying the two as opposites and showing how the cultivation would destroy the natural wilderness, and as a result never meet in the painting. On the hill in the far background, logging scars in the forest can be observed, which appear to form Hebrew letters. This was first noticed by Matthew Baigell long after the landscape was painted. If viewed upside down, as if from God's perspective, the word shaddai is formed, “The Almighty.“ Cole gives himself a tiny self-portrait sitting on the rocks in the foreground with his easel.
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Thomas Cole

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