Thomas Cole’s The Mill, Sunset shows an imagined landscape based on sites he visited in New England and upstate New York. The painter also relied on his thorough understanding of European art. Seventeenth-century Italian landscapes by Claude Lorrain inspired the general composition. The painting, however, reflects contemporary American beliefs and aspirations. The children in the foreground—Cole’s own—imply America’s promising future. The working mill at right signifies the importance of industry. The bucolic scene of rural life under the watch of the high mountain peak suggests the harmonious coexistence of community settlement and pristine wilderness guided by Divine Providence. Collectively, these features reflect the artist’s high hopes for a national art that could favorably compete with Europe’s.