Autumn Twilight depicts Mount Chocorua in its richest autumnal finery. The scene is untouched by any trappings of civilization; in the foreground a storm-blasted tree trunk has been violently disfigured by the ungovernable power of nature. At the lower right an Indian glides by in his canoe, gazing steadily at the viewer as if in warning as he departs the scene. It bears a close relationship to the The Savage State, another wild landscape inhabited only by aboriginal figures. Cole purposely titled this painting with a specific location, which, along with the Indian figure, would have brought to any contemporary viewer's mind the legend of Chocorua. The story evolved throughout the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, but in its most basic form, the Indian Chocorua was pursued to the mountain summit by a group of white men (for reasons that vary in different accounts) and leapt to his death, but not before uttering a curse on the land, which was later blamed for the high mortality of cattle who grazed near the foot of the mountain. Cole's interpretation of the story showed his sympathy for the Indian, relating how the white men "gave the poor despairing and defenceless [sic] wretch the cruel choice of whether he would leap from the dreadful precipice on the top of which he stood or die beneath their rifles."
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