Eye Candy for Today: Thomas Cole’s Architect’s Dream

Architect's Dream, Thomas Cole
Architect’s Dream, Thomas Cole

Link is to zoomable image on Google Art Project; downloadable file on Wikimedia Commons, original is in the Toledo (Ohio) Museum of Art, which also has an interactive feature on the work.

This fantastical combination of Egyptian, Greek, Roman and Gothic architectural styles — in the midst of which we find the dreaming architect, surrounded by plans and oversize books atop a gigantic column — was painted for New York architect Ithiel Town.

Town had commissioned a view of Athens, and was taken aback by the finished work which was, to say the least, not quite what he was expecting. He rejected it.

The painting has the painted inscription: “Painted by T. Cole / For I. Town Archt.”, and it stayed in Cole’s possession, and that of his family, until purchased by the Toledo Museum.

I like the contrast between the dark, shadowed Gothic spire in the foreground and the almost etherial Egyptian temple and obelisks in the distance. I particularly like the fact that he has portrayed his Egyptian pyramid in the original finished form — covered in polished white limestone.

2 Replies to “Eye Candy for Today: Thomas Cole’s Architect’s Dream

  1. I admire how Cole often used the landscape genre in the service of allegory. Incidentally, this painting was used for the cover of the excellent book by Richard Tarnas- ‘The Passion of the Western Mind’; the architectural styles of each epoch serving to represent the different world views explored therein.

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