Born in Maryland, George Cooke taught himself to paint after trying his hand at various endeavors, including land speculation. After a five-year period studying Old Master paintings in Europe, he returned to America and took up the life of an itinerant portraitist. He also painted historical subjects and landscapes, only a few of which are extant today. Most of Cooke's travels were in the South. Although he visited the mineral springs of western Virginia on several occasions, this is his only painting of one of its famous resorts. Employing techniques from the French landscape painter Claude Lorrain, Cooke composed a scene that is both masterful and poetic. He was also concerned that the viewer accept its topographical accuracy and therefore included himself at an easel in the foreground, his attention directed to the dormitory rows that are still lit by sunlight. The classical temple that covers the springs, at the left, was designed by the notable Philadelphia architect, William Strickland.
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