Course of Empire is a series of paintings by Thomas Cole that all show the same set of land. Each of the five paintings shows a different piece of the empire, and I have never seen anything like it. It begins with “The Savage State” and progresses all the way through the ruins of a destroyed city in “Desolation.” I thought showing action through paintings like this was a really innovative way to tell a story in this medium, and they remain some of my favorite pieces of art ever.

The Savage State

The Arcadian or Pastoral State

The Consummation of Empire