The Course of Empire is a series of five paintings created by Thomas Cole in the 1830s. These paintings portray the transformation of human civilization from a savage wilderness to high civilization, and ultimately its demise. The Savage State is one of the paintings in the series, completed in 1834.
Thomas Cole, a successful painter of Hudson River landscapes, returned to the theme of cycles in his artwork. The Course of Empire reflects popular American sentiment of pastoralism as the ideal phase of civilization and the fear of the decline of empire. The series includes five paintings: Desolation, Destruction, The Consummation of Empire, The Arcadian or Pastoral State, and The Savage State.
The 1830s were an optimistic time in America, with the completion of the Erie Canal and the growth of the country. The Course of Empire paintings are considered to be some of the most important in American art history. They showcase the evolution of human civilization and the inevitability of its decline. The Savage State in particular depicts a time when humans were still savage and uncivilized, living in a wild and untamed environment.