The Old North Church towers over a dismal, darkened street. A break of sunlight gradually illuminates the peaks of the buildings, sidewalk near the church, and the almost nonvisible side of the church’s steeple. There is a hazy quality to the painting; it blurs the figures moving down the road, who appear to be shadowy splotches blending in with the sidewalks and cold, bland buildings. Each structure is simple; the only discernible details are the spires, lantern, and belfry of the steeple.
About the Artist: Born in Staatsburg-on-Hudson, NY, Cole was named after two renowned painters of the Hudson River School: Thomas Cole (1801-1848) and John William Casilear (1811-1893). He attended school at the Riverview Military Academy in Poughkeepsie, NY (1900-04) and Harvard University (1905) before turning his attention to painting studied at the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (1905-11) and Académie Julian, Paris (1912). In 1909, he published a history in New England Magazine on Old St. Mary’s Church at Newton’s Lower Falls, illustrated by his own paintings. Cole served in the US Navy between 1917 and 1919, and beginning in May 1918 worked under William Andrew Mackay in a special unit for the camouflage of ships and submarines at the Bureau of Construction and Repair. During the final eight months of World War I, more than 1,200 US ships were painted with so-called “disruptive coloration”. After the war, he showed his talents at a Knoedler Gallery exhibition of Allied Commander portraits, Cole’s praised as “having a personality all their own with the dark rich coloring in the figures and the well-modeled faces contrasted against the dark background” (Brooklyn Daily Eagle 19 Oct. 1919: 77). He went on to exhibit his work widely, including the National Academy of Design, the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, and the Art Institute of Chicago. A reviewer of his 1927 exhibition of 33 portraits at Ainslee Gallery wrote: “In all cases the portraits are distinguished by a sincerity and a happy achievement of the most difficult of all painters’ problems, that of satisfying both sitter and himself (Brooklyn Daily Eagle 13 Feb. 1927: 59). Cole became so well-known for his portraits that he was often commissioned to paint public and historical figures like President James K. Polk. 13 more images at FAP. His papers are at the Archives of American Art.
Michalak, Benjamin (biography)
Cooper, Ken (biography)
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