Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Cole, George Vicat

1369067Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, Volume 2 — Cole, George Vicat1901Campbell Dodgson

COLE, GEORGE VICAT (1833–1893), landscape painter, the eldest son of George Cole [q. v.] by his marriage with Eliza Vicat, was born at Portsmouth on 17 April 1833. He was taught by his father, and studied, as a boy, the works of Turner, Cox, and Constable. He exhibited his first pictures, views in Surrey and on the river Wye, at the British Institution and the Suffolk Street Galleries in 1852. In 1853, after a tour abroad with his father, he exhibited 'Marienburg on the Moselle' and 'Ranmore Common, Surrey,' at the Royal Academy. For a few years, after a temporary separation from his father, he lived in London and gave drawing-lessons. He gained little by his pictures, and was often in straits. He made his name in 1861 by 'A Surrey Cornfield,' a view near Leith Hill, Surrey, exhibited at the Suffolk Street Gallery, for which he obtained the silver medal of the Society of Arts. He continued for years to spend his summers at Abinger or Albury, and to exhibit pictures of meadows and cornfields among the Surrey hills, with such titles as 'Spring,' 'The Harvest' (a water-colour), and 'Summer Rain.' He was the most popular landscape painter of the time, though he ranked in the opinion of good judges, then as now, much below John Linnell [q. v.], with whom he has often been compared. From 1863 to 1867 he lived on Holmbury Hill, Surrey, but in 1868 he removed to 8 Victoria Road, Kensington, which was his home till 1874. In 1864 he withdrew from the Society of British Artists to become a candidate for academic honours. He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy on 25 Feb. 1870, and an academician on 16 June 1880. After 1870 he varied his Surrey views with pictures of the river Arun ('The Day's Decline,' 1876, 'Arundel,' 1877), and of the Thames valley, such as 'Iffley Mill,' 'Windsor,' and 'Richmond Hill ' (1875), and many views of Streatley, Wargrave, and the backwaters near Henley, which were no less popular than the Surrey landscapes. In 1881, at the suggestion of Mr. (afterwards Sir William) Agnew, Cole conceived the idea of painting a complete series of views on the Thames from its source to its mouth, which were to be engraved. The project was never carried out in its entirety, but almost all Cole's later pictures were painted on the Thames. Among the few pictures of other scenery which he exhibited were 'Loch Scavaig, Isle of Skye' (1875), and 'The Alps at Rosenlaui' (1878). In 1888 he startled the public by a new departure, deserting the peaceful reaches of the upper Thames for the London river with its smoky wharves and crowded shipping. The 'Pool of London,' his most ambitious picture, but not a characteristic specimen of his work, was bought out of the funds of the Chantrey Bequest for 2,000l., and is now in the National Gallery of British Art, Millbank. The 'Summons to Surrender,' an episode in the history of the Spanish Armada, was exhibited in 1889. His diploma picture, 'Misty Morning' (1891), a scene at Abinger, was the last of his Surrey landscapes. 'Westminster,' a large view of the houses of parliament from the river (1892) was less successful .than his first London picture. Cole exhibited, in all, seventy-six pictures at the Royal Academy, and forty-eight in Suffolk Street. Many of them have been engraved. He died suddenly, on 6 April 1893, at Little Campden House, Kensington, which had been his residence since 1874. He was married on 7 Nov. 1856 to Mary Anne Chignell.

By his wife, who survives him, he left three daughters and a son, Mr. Reginald Vicat Cole, who is also a landscape painter. Cole abandoned his first name, George, in 1854. His pictures were signed 'Vicat Cole' from that year till 1870, when, on being elected A.R.A., he changed his signature and adopted a monogram formed of the letters 'V. C.'

[Chignell's Life and Paintings of Vicat Cole, R.A., with portrait and many illustrations; Times, 8 April 1893; Daily Graphic, 8 April 1893 (memoir by M. H. Spielmann); Athenæum, 15 April 1893; Graves's Dict. of Artists; private information.]

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