In 1826, Thomas Cole painted “Falls of the Kaaterskill,” which is considered the first painting of the Hudson River School, a uniquely American style of landscape painting. The artwork showcases the Kaaterskill Falls in Upstate New York, featuring a cascading waterfall, an autumnal forest, and sunlight illuminating a rocky ledge. A single figure, a Native American, stands on top of a rock in the painting. Cole painted at least three other versions of the site, signifying the breathtaking beauty and significance of the location.
Despite the indigenous people’s departure from the area long before the painting’s creation, the artwork symbolizes the untamed beauty of nature. The painting is oil on canvas and measures 109 x 92 cm. It is currently part of a private collection, but other versions of the painting are displayed in various museums.
With its naturalistic imagery and vivid depiction of the falls, “Falls of the Kaaterskill” emphasizes the unspoiled, raw power of the American wilderness. Cole’s painting, therefore, reflects his admiration for the natural world and desire to connect with it through his art.