Thomas Cole. "The Voyage of Life-Youth."
New York: American Art Union, 1850. 15 1/2 x 22 3/4 (image). Engraving by John Smillie. Wide margins with light soiling in margins. Excellent impression. Overall, very good condition. Ref: Thomas Cole. One Hundred Years Later. A Loan Exhibition. Boston and New York: Wadsworth Athenæum and Whitney Museum of American Art, 1949. Matthew Baigell, Thomas Cole. New York, 1981.
Thomas Cole (1801-1848) is known as the founder of the Hudson River School of landscape painting and produced primarily realistic and imaginary landscapes. Samuel Ward commissioned Cole to paint a set of four allegorical paintings in 1839. These four prints, engraved after Cole's paintings, depict the stages of life from birth to death. Cole's inspiration may have come from a sermon by Reverend Reginald Heaver referring to "life [which] bears on us like the stream of a mighty river."
In 1849, Smillie engraved "Youth" for the American Art Union (1839-1851), an organization created to support and develop popular appreciation of American art by issuing prints engraved after paintings which the organization owned. The favorable reception of this print led Smillie to engrave the three other voyages and issue the four print set in 1855. This image shows the man just beginning to depart from his guardian angel, before he begins to deal with the difficult currents of manhood through appeal to God.