Thomas Cole is considered the founder of the Hudson River School, a 19th-century American art movement. He was devoted to painting the American countryside as well as allegorical subjects that depicted fantastical scenery that illustrated stories with moral elements. This print is based on one of four paintings in Cole’s Voyage of Life series.
Cole, fervently religious, was unique among Hudson River School artists in his devotion to serial allegorical topics featuring idyllic bodies of water to tell complex morality narratives taking place over time. In a letter to a patron, Cole commented on the four paintings of the Voyage of Life:
"There are many windings in the stream of life, and on this idea I have proceeded. Its course towards the Ocean of Eternity we all know to be certain, but not direct."