Canisius Presents Lecture on Thomas Cole and the Course of the Empire State

BUFFALO, NY – ArtsCanisius presents “Thomas Cole and the Course of the Empire State,” a lecture by Joshua Fisher, PhD, on Sunday, April 13, 2014 at 1:00 p.m. at The Buffalo History Museum, One Museum Court, Buffalo. The event is free and open to the public.

What gives the American landscape its special character? Should the nation pride itself on its virgin wilderness, which distinguished it from Europe? Or is the American landscape to be celebrated as an index of progress, with villages and farms representing the American people’s ability to overcome natural obstacles and achieve material success in a new land? These are the most frequently posed questions in Thomas Cole’s landscape paintings, and at the time of his death in 1848, they remained unanswered. In his lecture, Fisher will examine Cole’s ambivalent response to the transformation of the American landscape by identifying recurring themes and motifs from paintings, which spanned more than two decades. Fisher will trace these themes back to a trip Cole made to the upstate New York town of Duanesburg in 1826. He believes this trip was an essential formative influence on Cole’s philosophy but so far has been overlooked by scholars.

Fisher is an assistant professor of Art History at Arkansas Tech University. His latest work on Thomas Cole has been supported by an Arkansas Tech University Professional Development Grant, a College of Arts & Humanities Scholarly Travel Grant, and was also presented at the Southeastern College Arts Conference in 2013. In addition to his work on Cole, Fisher has published on Earth Art, Mount Rushmore and has a forthcoming article on Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, which was also the focus of his dissertation, “The Spiral Jetty in the Landscape of Time and Space” (2009, University of Iowa).

For more information, contact Claire L. Kovacs, PhD, assistant professor of art history, at (716) 888-2531 or via e-mail at

Canisius College is one of 28 Jesuit universities in the nation and the premier private university in Western New York.