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The Biblical narrative of the Garden of Eden and the expulsion faced by Adam and Eve is one that has long fascinated artists, and Thomas Cole was no exception.
His painterly depiction of the expulsion must surely rank amongst the most vivid and unforgettable: the canvas portrays a stark division between the idyllic Eden on the right hand side and the corrupt, dark world of the fall on the left. The former has a clear blue sky, lush green vegetation, an inviting glow, and mist-shrouded mountains that are just ripe to be explored, while the latter is a forbidding, primordial land of harsh crags, dead, twisted trees and an erupting volcano.
Thomas Cole, an English immigrant to the United States, was fascinated by the American wilderness and depicted it time and again in his work. His portrayal of the Eden story is influenced by this preoccupation: it is hard to miss that the painting depicts the two extremes of the wilderness, a land of adventure and discovery that is also a realm of hardship and strife. Many painters depicting Eden choose to focus on the principal characters of Adam, Eve and the Serpent; but Thomas Cole, on the other hand, reduces the first couple to a pair of tiny, easily-missed figures almost lost among the gnarled trees nearby. The only aspect of the painting that points in their direction is a flash of light emanating from the entrance to Eden; and we know all too well that the light in question will soon be cut off, forever sealing Eden away from us.
Thomas Cole's Expulsion from the Garden of Eden is a painting so vivid that, even in the form of a reproduced print, it retains its appeal. Any art lover who hangs this image on their wall can be assured that it will soon serve as a major conversation piece. Cole's skill as a painter ensures that the mythic scope of the narrative is conveyed to any observer, no matter what their religious viewpoint. Perhaps its key genius is that the painting adapts the narrative to suit a new era, an era where the American wilderness is beginning to haunt the popular imagination.
You can just imagine the sort of discussions that will take place if you put a print of the Expulsion from the Garden of Eden on display, depicting a well-known narrative in a manner that will make it fresh and new to any observer. If you are an art lover, then you can scarcely pass up the opportunity to have the work of Thomas Cole on display in your home, and his characteristic painting of Expulsion from the Garden of Eden must surely stand as one of his truly immortal works.