National Gallery of Art Custom Prints

Thomas Cole

The Departure, 1837

View Cart
Shop Main Online Store
Mark Rothko: Paintings on Paper
Rothko is renowned for his towering abstract paintings on canvas, but few people know that he also created nearly 1,000 paintings on paper over the course of his career.
View Prints

About the Artwork

In the mid-19th century, pure landscape pictures were traditionally ranked lower than other subject matter, such as themes from history, mythology, literature, or religion. Thomas Cole sought to create what he called a “higher style of landscape” that blended narrative elements into carefully executed scenes from nature. His use of two canvases allowed him to build his narrative to even greater technical and emotional heights. The Departure introduces a troop of knights embarking on a heroic crusade in the early summer led by their lord on his valiant white horse. In The Return, a smaller group—weary and defeated—trudges home in the autumn dusk; they carry the dying lord, his riderless horse trailing behind.

The two landscapes were commissioned as a pair by wealthy landowner William Paterson Van Rensselaer in December 1836, specifying only that the paintings should depict morning and evening. Cole had recently enjoyed critical and popular success for his epic five-canvas series, The Course of Empire (1836, The New-York Historical Society) completed earlier in the year, which likely made Van Rensselaer choose him for the project. That Cole achieved his goal of a “higher style of landscape” among his contemporaries is reflected in the praise the paintings received in an 1837 New-York Mirror review:
"These pictures represent Morning and Evening, or Sunrise and Sunset; and are, merely from that point of view, invaluable. They contrast the glowing warmth of one, with the cool tints and broad shadows of the other; and to do this is the work of a master, who has studied nature and loves her….Not only this is done, but a story is told by the poet-painter, elucidating at once, the times of chivalry and feudal barbarism, and the feelings with which man rushes forth in the morning of day and of life, and the slow and funereal movements which attend the setting of his sun."

Popular Images

About Our Prints

National Gallery of Art Custom Prints is your exclusive source for custom reproductions authorized and available for purchase directly from the National Gallery of Art. All items that are offered are produced using gallery-quality materials and the color is managed in a manner that produces a reproduction as true to the original as modern technology will allow.
Many of the works offered through this store are exclusive and not available anywhere else. In addition, new works are continually added to the offering, so come back often to see our new releases.
You have found the work that speaks to you. Now what? Using our innovative custom framing tool you can preview exactly what your finished and framed art will look like. We offer many different moulding styles so there is sure to be a match for any type of decor.

Member Discounts

Circle Members will receive a 20% discount for all Custom Prints orders processed through our kiosk or website. During the checkout process, enter the coupon code you received from the membership office and your discount will be applied.