Thomas Cole’s Voyage of Life was an exhibition at the Chrysler Museum of Art in Norfolk, Virginia that immediately caught my attention. The piece was created with an oil pigment on a canvas binder in the years 1839 and 1840. The complete exhibition consists of four paintings that tell a story in sequential order, The Voyage of Life: Childhood, Youth, Manhood, and Old Age. Each stage of life is progress along a long river; and each painting consists of the same characters: guardian angel, the person traveling in the boat (voyager), the river, and lastly the beautifully detailed landscape. It seems that the entire piece was aimed to have an underlying religious message and present the Christian spiritual journey.
The Childhood painting sparks the story with an innocent infant in a boat, being guided by an angel. The boat is coming out of a dark cave which is said to symbolize the earthly origin and the mysterious past (The Thomas Cole National Historic Site).The water appears calm and the trees even look serene and calm. Compared to the other paintings, the river bank appears close and the scene itself is rather narrow in scope and this denotes the little experiences one may have during their childhood days (The Thomas Cole National Historic Site).It appears that the sun is entering the scene from the east, and the blossoming flowers…show more content… In the clouds, there is a faint castle and the young child is reaching towards the castle. I thought the castle symbolized the young boy’s dreams and aspirations to glory and fame; as daydreaming is characteristic of the youth. The river no longer goes in a straight path; instead, it is a winding river and symbolizes the trials and tribulations life may bring you. The fullness of the trees’ vegetation lets us know that this painting reflects a summer day (The Thomas Cole National Historic