Cole, Thomas (1801-1848)

The Voyage of Life: Old Age

(see also Childhood and Youth)


Oil on canvas

52 1/2 x 77 1/4 in (133 x 196 cm)

Darkness and the end of life, light a new begin. That's the symbolism of the time of life. The light is the capacity and in the end thus the world is in darkness and falling apart indistinct in the shadows of decay . The only true light left is that of heaven, God, spiritual knowledge and liberation. We see it at the end of a tunnel. This tunnel is the material world. This is the classical view of liberation, it does not really consider rebirth like with the other painting of this artist called Childhood. In that painting the world turns out to be the light the old man is heading for. Therefore although not seen here the theme is that of the cycles of birth and death, with the light only picturing the mood one is in. The world is not really the darkness. The darkness is the disbelief that heaven can be of this earth, that paradise and eternity is in the very light and eternal of the atomic to the eternal of time. That is the endless that is the place of light. Should we lament like this about just physical decay? Where there is death, there is also rebirth. In this picture the light is thus the hope for a better world, the world as seen in Childhood.

(Tekst in het Nederlands)

Munson-Williams Proctor Institute, Utica, New York


Study in detail


Time Art Gallery/hall 2