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The Cover
April 21, 2004

American Lake Scene

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2004;291(15):1808. doi:10.1001/jama.291.15.1808

In the vast panorama of American landscape painting, it is Thomas Cole (1801-1848) who stands tallest. It could be said, in fact, that Thomas Cole never met a tree that he didn't like or, better, want to paint. To him and to other landscape painters of mid 19th-century America, and in particular to those of the Hudson River School he founded, the landscape was holy: it held the mysteries of the divine. It was the biblical "glass that now we see through darkly." Fashioned by the Great Architect (JAMA cover, October 10, 2001), the virgin landscape held all the mysteries of life. It was the illiterate man's scripture, the rich man's illuminated book. It promised abundance, though not without labor, and it also promised edenic rest at day's end. By nature the American landscape was beautiful, forests no less than mountains, lakes no less than sky, the leafless no less than the lush. The mountains were wise, the valleys young, and through it all ran a river of grace carrying men and cargo and people simply out for an afternoon's pleasure. To Cole and his Hudson River painters, the landscape was meant to be looked at and pondered over, as it had been from the time of its first native inhabitants.

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