George Vicat Cole (usually known as Vicat Cole) was an important landscape painter working in the mid-19th century. In keeping with the realist mood of that period, he painted naturalistic English landscape scenes, without attempting deeper meanings or looking for rustic ideals. His speciality was the effect of atmosphere and light.
Cole was born in Portsmouth, and trained in the studio of his father George Cole (1810-1883), an eminent painter of landscapes, animals and portraits who rose as far as the Vice-Presidency of the Society of British Artists. As a young man, Cole copied prints of works of Turner, Constable and Cox, and the paintings of these men had a strong influence on him.
Cole had a difficult start as a professional painter in the early 1850s, when his pictures never sold for more than forty shillings. However, in 1854 he had his first picture at the RA Summer Exhibition, and from then on things looked up. At first his pictures were badly hung, but John Millais, seeing one of Cole's works placed where it would never be seen, interceded on his behalf. Gradually Cole's landscapes became increasingly popular, his technique more assured, and in 1870 he became ARA, the only painter to do so in that year. In 1880 he became RA, and in 1888 his work The Pool of London was bought under the terms of the Chantrey Bequest. His later work included much in the way of Thames scenes, which led him to be criticised by the Magazine of Art as having 'tied himself down to tickle the public taste with prettiness'.
Cole's son, Reginald Rex Vicat Cole (1870-1940) was also a landscape painter, and founded a School of Painting together with Byam Shaw.
Cole's The Summons to Surrender (1899), showing Francis Drake's defeat of a Spanish galleon, is in the Nottingham Castle Museum and Art Gallery. The Pool of London is in the Tate Gallery, though I have not noticed it appear on the walls. Other work is in Portsmouth. In the collection of the Worthing Art Gallery are landscapes by Cole's father George Cole, and a work by his son, Rex Vicat Cole.
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