Thomas Cole’s Refrain: The Paintings of Catskill Creek


186 pages; softcover. By H. Daniel Peck, with forewords by Elizabeth Jacks, Executive Director of the Thomas Cole National Historic Site, and Masha Turchinsky, Director of the Hudson River Museum.


Thomas Cole’s Refrain shows how Cole’s Catskill Creek paintings, while reflecting concepts such as the stages of life, opened a more capacious vision of experience than his narrative-driven series, such as The Voyage of Life.

Relying on rich visual evidence provided by paintings, topographic maps, and contemporary photographs, Peck argues that human experience is conveyed through Cole’s embedding into a stable, recurring landscape key motifs that tell stories of their own. The motifs include enigmatic human figures, mysterious architectural forms, and particular trees and plants.

Peck finds significant continuities―personal and conceptual―running throughout the Catskill Creek paintings, continuities that cast new light on familiar works and bring significance to ones never before seen by many viewers.