Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Manhood by Thomas Cole

Manhood, painted in 1842 by   Thomas Cole, belongs to a series entitled “The Voyage of Life”. The author uses universal symbolism, by which, we witness the voyage of a boy from the cradle to the grave, riding in his boat the different seasons of his life.
The first time you look at this canvas you feel impressed by the realistic and vivid depiction of nature. Nature, for Hudson River school, was not only an accurate portrayal of North America landscape, but it was also a metaphor of human soul.
Manhood depicts a man being swept away by the current while the water whirls into a rush of white foam. Standing up on his boat, he can hardly keep his balance on a boat without helm.  His hands are interwoven, begging for help as he has been left alone at the mercy of his inevitable fate.
 His guardian angel, who used to accompany him, is now placed at the top, on the left, up in the sky and barely visible to the naked eye. Between the man and his protector there is now a bank of black clouds, the angel can see him but the man can just trust  and pray.
He is belittled by the rugged   landscape. There is no grass or bright colours just twisted trees and a gloomy sky. This menacing scenery  stands for a stage of life  full of troubles and incertitudes. Without the naivety of childhood or the confidence of youth, the man feels weak to face his fate.
Everything is happening in the same direction, following the river flow; therefore, two main lines rule the scene, the main one to the small falls, the second one to the horizon.
In the foreground, on the horizon it is dawning. The darkness melts into the pale light of yellowish  shades.
 The first rays of sun, filtering through the clouds, and the ocean with its still water lend a certain peace after the rough trip. The ocean not only symbolizes the end of our winding voyage, but it also symbolizes death as its logical end.

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