GEORGE VICAT COLE

(17 April 1833 - 6 April 1893)

Landscape painter, the eldest son of George Cole [q. v.] by his marriage with Eliza Vicat, born at Portsmouth. 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 was married on 7 November 1856 to Mary Anne Chignell.

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 Rosenlau' (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 at Little Campden House, Kensington, which had been his residence since 1874.

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); Athenaeum, 15 April 1893; Graves's Dict, of Artists; Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement, by Campbell Dodgson;.]

DEATH OF AN EMINENT PAINTER.

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LONDON, April, 9.

Mr. Vicat Cole, R.A., the eminent landscape painter, died suddenly yesterday, at the age of 60 years.

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Vicat Cole, R.A., landscape painter, was born at Portsmouth in 1833, and received his earliest instruction in art from his father, Mr. George Cole, a well-known member of the Society of British Artists. Afterwards he resorted wholly to nature in the open English landscape for his materials, and the study of the means by which to transfer them with effect to canvas. Both he and his father were still resident at Portsmouth in 1852, when Vicat Cole sent his first exhibited pictures to London. These were two river scenes sketched in the picturesque locality of the Wye: one was entitled "Scene on the Wye, Tintern;" the other "From Symond's Yat on the Wye." They were exhibited at the Society of British Artists. Before another year arrived he had paid a visit to the Continent, from which resulted a view of "Marienburg Kloster, on the Moselle," exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1853, with another work, "Ranmoor Common, Surrey," a county whose beautiful scenery has furnished this artist with subjects for many of his finest works. In 1858 he was elected a member of the Society of British Artists, and during several succeeding years he was a regular exhibitor in Suffolk-street. In 1860 he exhibited there "A Surrey Cornfield - a view near Leith Hill, Dorking," which by its truthful realisation of Nature in her richest autumn garb, its breadth of treatment, and skilful handling, commanded universal admiration. The Society for the Encouragement of the Fine Arts bestowed their silver medal upon the artist for this performance. The picture was subsequently exhibited in the International Exhibition of 1862. In 1864, following the example of Stanfield, Roberts, Creswick, and other, who had been members and exhibitors at Suffolk-street, Mr. Cole retired from the Society of British Artists to become a candidate for honours at the Royal Academy. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in February, 1870, and a Royal Academician, 16th June, 1880. His favourite field of study and the source of most of his subjects was Surrey with its picturesque hills and dales, heaths and woodland, cornfield and pasturage. One of Vicat Cole's best works is a picture in the Sydney Art Gallery, entitled "Arundel Caske." Another of his pictures of a distinctly opposite character, via., "Ripening Sunbeam" attracted mush attention during the time it was on view in the Art Gallery some time ago.

The Sydney Morning Herald, Monday, April 10, 1893.