Summer Semester Vol. 10, No. 1

The ArtLinks Inquirer:

The Hunter’s Return

The Artwork

This American landscape painting shows a fall afternoon in a time that celebrated westward expansion. Mountains, a lake, and trees with colorful leaves represent an "American Garden of Eden." In this place, a pioneer family appears to be successfully living off the abundance of the land. The mountain in the background is a real place in the state of New Hampshire.

We see the scene from a distance as hunters return home to a waiting family. The neat cabin in a clearing and the large vegetable garden suggest that all is well with the family. They have food, water, and shelter in a beautiful setting.

Yet all is not perfect in this world. If we look more closely, we can see that the artist has provided some warnings about "taming the wilderness." Why do you think the artist included tree stumps and fallen logs? Could they be symbols of humanity's careless destruction of nature? Maybe they serve as a warning that people must maintain a careful balance with nature.

The Artist

Thomas Cole was born in England, but came to the United States when he was seventeen years old. As an adult, he lived in New York state and was inspired by the beauty of nature around him in the Hudson River Valley.

Cole traveled around New York and New England to find subjects for his paintings. He made sketches directly from nature, then completed his paintings in the studio. He wanted landscape painting to become "a higher style of art."

Questions to Answer

(Write your answers on another piece of paper)

1. Why do you think The Hunter's Return is sometimes called an "American Garden of Eden"?

2. What idea do you think is the most important in this painting? Explain your answer.

3. Speaking about the natural beauty of America, the artist Thomas Cole said:

"I know, full well, that forests must be felled for fuel and tillage, and that roads and canals must be constructed, but I contend that BEAUTY should be of some value among us; that where it is not NECESSARY to destroy a tree or a grove, the hand of the woodman should be checked..."

Do you agree with the artist's statement? Why or why not?

3. Texas became a state in 1845, the year in which The Hunter's Return was painted. What was happening in Texas at this time? What did people think about westward expansion in Texas?

4. Think of a real place in nature that you would like to see in a landscape painting. Write a detailed description of it or use it as the subject for an artwork.