The Art Museum: Fifth and Final Part

Thomas Cole’sThe Voyage of Life

Thomas Cole was commissioned by NY banker, Samuel Ward Sr., in 1839 to paint this series.  The Voyage of Life was his synthesis of three universal ideas:  That life is a pilgrimage, that a person’s life can be divided into stages, and that an individual’s life can be symbolically compared to a journey on a river that winds its way through the landscape of time.

Painting one is, “Childhood”.  Joy and optimism are suggested by painting the scene in the promising morning light.

Photo taken from magazine.
Photo taken from magazine.
Close up of the boat.
Close up of the “Childhood” boat.

Painting two is, “Youth”.  In this painting you may notice that the river seems to be flowing in the opposite direction as the river in the first painting.   Cole, himself said that it was to symbolize that there are many windings in the river of life.  This painting is a visionary embodiment of youthful hope and aspiration.


Close up from "Youth"

Above photo taken of actual painting.

Close up of the Angel in "Youth".
Close up of the Angel in “Youth”.

Painting three is, “Manhood”.  In this painting the dark foreboding clouds symbolize middle age.  Here we find along with the guardian angel, the three ghosts or demons of Suicide, Intemperance, and Murder.  Cole painted the man with an upward and imploring look to show his dependence on God and that faith saves him from what seems to be inevitable destruction.

Close up of the boat.
Close up of the “Manhood” boat.

Close up of angel in the sky of "Manhood".This photo is taken of the actual painting.  You can see the brush strokes.  This angel is found int the light of the sky in the upper left hand corner of the “Manhood” painting.
Painting four is, “Old Age”.  Having achieved salvation on the rapids of manhood,  the man is now old and leaves the river of life for the sea of immortality.

Old Age

Close up of Angels coming down from heaven in, “Old Age”.
Close up of the "Old Age" boat.
Close up of the “Old Age” boat.
Close up of Angels coming down from heaven in, "Old Age".
Close up of Angels coming down from heaven in, “Old Age”.  Photo taken of actual painting.


Photo taken of actual painting.

(Above information taken from the museum flyer.)

I was personally fascinated by the detail found in these gorgeous paintings! I was also shocked at their sizes. One cannot comprehend how massively impressive they are just by looking at these photos! Each painting is approximately 4.5 feet by 6.5 feet and filled with tiny, little details that cannot even be seen here in these photos, such as in “Manhood” the three demons that can easily be found swirling around in the dark clouds are barely visible in this photo. In “Old Age” the many angels flying in the light of the sky are also pretty much invisible here. You may also have noticed that as the person’s life progresses the boat that he’s traveling in falls more and more into disrepair.  The treasure of “Childhood” is also depleted by the time we reach “Old Age”.

You can read more about these beautiful and inspirational paintings here.
You can view more images of, “The Voyage of Life” here.

I hope you have enjoyed out little trip to our local art museum despite the less than stellar quality of my humble, unprofessional photos! Of course no photo can compare to the awe of viewing the actual magnificent works of art themselves!

(Photos taken from “Homeschooling Today” magazine-Jan/Feb 1994- Mar/Apr 1994- May/June 1994- July/Aug 1994.  Most of the Photos of the actual paintings that I took from my iPod were fuzzier and of poorer quality than these.)

4 Replies to “The Art Museum: Fifth and Final Part

  1. This is wonderful. Thanks for sharing it.
    How interesting that the demons of middle age would be murder, suicide and intemperance, given that we are living in such a violent and intemperate time.

Leave a Reply to Sylvia Cancel reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.