GEORGE COLE

(1810 - 7 September 1883)

Portrait, landscape, and animal painter. He was self-taught, and began his artistic career at Portsmouth as a portrait-painter. Some of his early studies were made in a travelling menagerie belonging to Wombwell, who, on application, allowed the youth to work from living animals, and afterwards commissioned him to execute a large canvas of twenty feet square illustrating a tiger hunt in the jungle with elephants. This composition was exhibited first at Weyhill Fair, but on the following day a terrific storm almost destroyed it; the pieces were, however, collected, sent to London, and carefully put together, which enabled its proprietor to show it again at the 'Great Barthelemy Fair.' These show-cloths were far beyond the ordinary in artistic quality, and were very masterly in execution. Cole now felt that he was deceiving the public by representing animals of unnatural sizes, and decided to leave the showman. He went to Holland to study animal painting with the best Dutch masters. Among his patrons on his return home were Sir J. B. Mill, Bart., General Yates, Mr. Edmund Peel, and Admiral Codrington. Cole first exhibited at the British Institution in 1840. One picture, about 1845, representing 'Don Quixote and Sancho Panza with Rosinante in Don Pedro's hut,' attracted much attention there. He was elected a member of the Society of British Artists in 1850, and took to landscape finally. In 1864 the Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts awarded him a medal for a landscape. He exhibited between 1838 and 1880 sixteen pictures at the Royal Academy, thirty-five at the British Institution, and 209 at the Suffolk Street Gallery. His son is the well-known Royal Academician, Mr. (George) Vicat Cole.

[Art Journal, 1883; Athenæum, September 1883; Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 11, by Louis Alexander Fagan.]