Terra Foundation-supported Events

Dialogue: “Art, Empire, and History: A Transatlantic Conversation on Thomas Cole”

A major event on the fall cultural calendar in Paris, Une brève histoire de l’avenir, on view at the Musée du Louvre from September 24, 2015, to January 4, 2016, confronts themes of history and time through a diachronic and interdisciplinary presentation of objects ranging from Babylonian artifacts to site-specific commissions by Ai Wei-Wei. Among these works is Thomas Cole’s The Course of Empire, a series of five paintings created by the American artist from 1833 to 1836. Starting with The Savage State and ending with Desolation, the canvases survey an imaginary site from the origins of human habitation through the rise of a thriving civilization and its eventual demise. Within the Louvre exhibition, the series is displayed alongside not only works of art but also weapons from different cultures and periods, offering a visual meditation on cycles of progress, decadence, and decline.

Seizing upon the rare appearance in Europe of these iconic works of American art, as well as the uncommon context of their presentation, this dialogue brings together two distinguished art historians and curators, both experts in nineteenth-century landscape painting, to discuss the Louvre’s landmark exhibition and the role of Cole’s work within it. How do these divergent works relate to each other? How do they speak to the uneasy political and economic climate of today? And what wisdom might they hold for the future?


  • Dominique de Font-Réaulx, conservateur général at the Musée du Louvre and director of the Musée national Eugène-Delacroix, is co-curator of Une brève histoire de l’avenir with Jean de Loisy. Other recent exhibitions include Jean-Léon Gérôme (Musée d’Orsay and Getty Museum, 2010) and Gustave Courbet, 1819-1877 (Galeries nationales du Grand Palais and Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2007-2008). Her publications include Peinture et photographie: les enjeux d’une rencontre, 1839-1914 (2012) as well as numerous catalogue contributions.
  • Amy Meyers, director of the Yale Center for British Art since 2002, has written extensively on the visual and material culture of natural history in the trans-Atlantic world, serving as co-editor with Pamela Smith and Hal Cook of Ways of Making and Knowing: The Material Culture of Empirical Knowledge (2014); editor of Knowing Nature: Art and Science in Philadelphia, 1740 to 1840, with Lisa Ford (2012); and editor of Art and Science in America: Issues of Representation (1998). She has worked at the Center for Advanced Study in Visual Arts at the National Gallery of Art and The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, and has taught at the California Institute of Technology, University of Michigan, and Yale.

This event is free and open to the public. It will be held in English. Please RSVP by November 9 to:
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