It’s interesting to compare artistic, albeit cynical, sentiments of results of civilization shown in the works of Thomas Cole and, more recently, R. Crumb.

Cole did a series of five paintings, The Course of Empire, 1833-36. Oil on canvas, The New-York Historical Society, as detailed at ExploreThomasCole.org, here.  Cole is quoted as having written in a letter to a mentor about this work:

A series of pictures might be painted that should illustrate the History of a natural scene, as well as be an Epitome of Man—showing the natural changes of Landscape & those effected by man in his progress from Barbarism to Civilization, to Luxury, the Vicious state or state of destruction and to the state of Ruin & Desolation.

The philosophy of my subject is drawn from the history of the past, wherein we see how nations have risen from the Savage state to that of Power & Glory & then fallen & become extinct…

More recently, R. Crumb, the famous underground comic book author (wiki article here) drew an interesting poster called “A Short History of America,” which I bought some years back, and still have in a cardboard tube, somewhere. Crumb still sells this poster in a new format, here.  Have a look:

R. Crumb's "A Short History of America"

R. Crumb's "A Short History of America"


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