Expulsion from the Garden of Eden
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Thomas Cole was a huge John Milton nerd, he even painted visual interpretations of two of Milton’s deep cuts – L’Allegro and Il Penesoro – which is kind of like writing a review of Beyoncé’s “Sing a Song (feat. The WubbzGirlz)” that appeared on NickJr’s Wow! Wow! Wubbzy!

If you haven’t read Paradise Lost; the basic plot is the story of Adam and Eve and the lesson is that all Christians should be miserable until they die, which Milton definitely was. The thing about Paradise Lost is that it doesn’t say that Eve shouldn’t give in to Satan’s temptation, that sh*t is humanity’s fate. While Jan Brueghel the Elder and basically every other artist pin the blame on Eve, Cole takes a more Miltonic, misanthropic angle. Look how Adam isn’t blaming Eve, see how he isn’t angry or violent? Everybody here is just sad, holding each other’s hand. Congrats Adam, you’re baseline decent!

But this painting isn’t really about the people; misanthropy remember? Cole took the highly acceptable subject of the Fall and then mostly ignored the humans, putting approximately three civilizations worth of self loathing into the landscape. This is true melodrama, those ravaged trees, the volcano, and the wolf protecting her venison from a vulture directly foil Eden’s endless golden hour and the swans frolicking in a pond.

Cole said that this was meant to be a “higher” form of landscape painting, and we’re not sure if he meant better or like, higher. Because yeah, landscape painting was the bottom of the European art totem but it was the only thing Americans would buy, and Cole wanted to be taken seriously as much as he wanted to eat. But also, there’s some pretty wild stuff going on. Those snow-covered mountains look way too steep to hold that snow, the volcano is more Mordor than Mauna Loa, and the swan pond waterfall is falling in the wrong direction.

Obviously this painting isn’t literally faithful to the American landscape. But, this is definitely an American scene. Where else would you see two naked adults running off into a storm? Now we have an entire desert festival about it!



  1. Cunner, Eugene R. “ Ut Pictura Poesis: Thomas Cole’s Painterly Interpretations of L’Allegro and Il Penseroso.” Milton Quarterly: Volume 24 Number 3, October 1990. Accessed October 19, 2017. 0.tb00
  2. “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.” Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 2017. Accessed October 19, 2017. -33060
  3. Harris, Beth and Steven Zucker. “Cole, Expulsion from the Garden of Eden.” Khan Academy, 2017. Accessed October 19, 2017. ericas/us-art-19c/romanticism-us/v/thomas-cole-expulsion-from-the-garden-of-eden-1828
  4. Manly, Emma Jo. “Expulsion from the Garden of Eden: An Analysis of the Painting by Thomas Cole.” The Core Journal, Issue 8, Spring 1999. Accessed October 19, 2017.