From Greg Lennes's post on the Melville Society Facebook page:
The Met Fifth Avenue in New York City will have a major exhibit (January 30th until May 13th) on U.S. artist Thomas Cole (1801-1848), who was known chiefly for his landscapes of the state of New York and of New England. He was one of the founders of the Hudson River School, whose members celebrated the natural beauty of the American landscape. Melville made use of the life and work of artists like Thomas Cole in his own fiction and poetry. For example here is a quote from "Moby-Dick."
"But here is an artist. He desires to paint you the dreamiest, shadiest, quietest, most enchanting bit of romantic landscape in all the valley of the Saco. What is the chief element he employs? There stand his trees, each with a hollow trunk, as if a hermit and a crucifix were within; and here sleeps his meadow, and there sleep his cattle; and up from yonder cottage goes a sleepy smoke."
The allusion here is to the Hudson River School of Thomas Cole and others. Melville first saw Cole's paintings "Course of Empire" and "Voyage of Life" on May 4, 1847 at the Gallery of Fine Arts in the Vanderlyn's Rotunda in New York City.
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