Unfortunately, the American painter died before he could complete the other pieces. He said of The Mountain Ford, 'I hope it will be one of my finest.'
The Lonely Traveller
The Mountain Ford features a large mountain that towers over the natural environment around it. A few other mountains are visible in the distance. One side of the mountain faces the sun, which allows it to cast a big shadow on the opposite side. At the foot of the mountain is a stunning lake with clear water. It reflects every inch of the surroundings from the mountain peak to the sizeable rocks sitting on the shore. The vegetation is lush and diverse. A large old tree takes up most of the space on the left part of the shore. The opposite shoreline is full of shrubs and other plants. Amidst all these is a lone traveller on a white horse. He is wearing a brown coat with hints of red clothing underneath and a black cap. A brown satchel is tied on the horse's back. The majestic white animal is just beginning to cross the lake, although it seems hesitant.
In this oil on canvas painting, Cole depicts the beauty of undisturbed nature. Most of his artwork was about how human beings interact with the environment. The man on the horse is a symbol of how man was already trying to conquer nature. Although the horse doesn't want to cross the lake, the man is guiding it there. Cole is showing that nature is resilient. He puts the traveller in a setting that seems to dominate over him. The mountain's shadow falls on the rider and beyond. Then, there is the tree whose branches stretch out towards the lake. Even when sitting on his horse, the man is no match for the natural environment around him.
Cole founded the Hudson River art movement, and The Mountain Ford is one of the classic pieces that represent the style. Hudson River painters created art that shows off the best of the American wilderness. In this piece, however, the background appears to be from Cole's imagination. In the letter to Leupp, Cole said that the series he was working on would be titled 'The Cross and the World.' It is the reason this painting is considered to be the first in that series. The theme is of a man crossing through the natural wild. The artist left the interpretation of the painting open and so, there are several things to glean from it. One is that of a person journeying through life alone, surrounded by natural wonder. Cole told Leupp that he had worked on the piece 'con amor,' meaning 'with love.' The Mountain Ford is available for viewing at the Metropolitan Art Museum.