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    Thomas Cole (American, 1801-1848)
    River Landscape (American Lake in Summer)
    Oil on canvas
    7-1/2 x 10-1/2 inches (19.1 x 26.7 cm)

    Private collection, Washington, Connecticut;
    Questroyal Fine Art, LLC, New York, acquired from the above, 2007;
    Private collection, East Coast, acquired from the above, 2008.

    We wish to thank noted Cole scholar Dr. Alan Wallach for providing the following essay. His report accompanies the lot:

    River Landscape is unsigned and undated. It's a highly detailed sketch but not a finished
    painting. In addition, its provenance is incomplete. According to Pavla Berghen-Wolf, a
    research associate at Questroyal Fine Art LLS, the painting was part of a private collection in
    Washington, Connecticut. In 2007, Questroyal acquired the painting, and in 2008 sold it to a
    collector in Riverside, Connecticut. Questroyal held the painting under the title Landscape
    (American Lake in Summer).

    Although it is impossible to trace the painting directly back to Thomas Cole, I believe it comes from his hand.

    The most immediate clue to Cole's authorship can be found in the sky. By the late 1830s, Cole had developed a formula for painting clouds in which a large cumulous cloud surmounts a long trailing cloud. Often the long trailing cloud is darker than the cumulous cloud as in Clouds (c. 1938, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York) and Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower (1938, National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC), and in the painting in question. In the latter, the underside of the cumulus cloud and trailing cloud are a combination of gray and bits of a reddish pink color, which can be seen elsewhere in the sky. I would add that the sky in River Landscape is not as luminous as the sky in some of Cole's paintings, but the touches of pink suggest the sort of sky he would have created had he brought the sketch to a higher state of finish.

    Cole's handling of trees furnishes another clue to his authorship. In his sketches and in some of his finished paintings, he would use a few touches of green paint to represent a tree silhouetted against the sky or against a more distant part of the landscape. This device appears in River Landscape and Clouds.

    Four other characteristics link the painting to Cole. First, although not Cole's uniquely, the artist often employed a compositional format in which one side of the composition is closed or near and the other side opens onto a larger space, a compositional format often found in classical baroque landscape paintings, for example in works by Claude, an artist Cole especially admired.

    Second, the artist's characteristic palette is very much in evidence in the grays, blues, pinks, and whites, of the sky, in the dark and light greens, browns, and touches of yellow in the landscape, and in the muted reflections of the entire color ensemble in the water.

    Third, Cole's distinctive touch appears throughout. It is present in areas in which paint is thinly applied and others in which the artist employs a thick impasto.

    Finally, the painting recapitulates Cole's insistence on including small details, a feature of such well-known works as The Oxbow, 1836, and View on the Catskill, Early Autumn, 1837 (both in the Metropolitan Museum of Art), his talent for miniaturization, and his habit of including barely-visible forms in his landscapes. . . .

    Taking into account the arguments I've set forth above, I can only conclude that Thomas Cole painted River Landscape.

    Alan Wallach
    Professorial Lecturer in Art History, George Washington University
    Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies Emeritus
    The College of William and Mary

    Please note: My opinion is based upon over a half a century of study of Thomas Cole's oeuvre and the relevant scholarly literature. However, an opinion, no matter how well founded, is not a guarantee but a statement of likelihood or probability.

    Condition Report*: Condition report available upon request.
    Framed Dimensions 14 X 17 Inches
    *Heritage Auctions strives to provide as much information as possible but encourages in-person inspection by bidders. Statements regarding the condition of objects are only for general guidance and should not be relied upon as complete statements of fact, and do not constitute a representation, warranty or assumption of liability by Heritage. Some condition issues may not be noted in the condition report but are apparent in the provided photos which are considered part of the condition report. Please note that we do not de-frame lots estimated at $1,000 or less and may not be able to provide additional details for lots valued under $500. Heritage does not guarantee the condition of frames and shall not be liable for any damage/scratches to frames, glass/acrylic coverings, original boxes, display accessories, or art that has slipped in frames. All lots are sold "AS IS" under the Terms & Conditions of Auction.

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    November, 2021
    5th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 5
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 520

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