William Isaac Cole, 1927

Bronze portrait bust mounted on a base of wood, a black-painted flat block

William Isaac Cole, Bronze portrait bust, signed F.W.Allen, 1927

In the library is a lively portrait bust of William Isaac Cole (1859-1935), modeled in clay and cast in bronze in 1927. His head is charmingly cocked slightly to one side, the rough chin lifted a bit to look upward with clear eyes and pleasant confidence. True to Boston School style, the details of the face are natural, the skin that of a distinguished older man with noticeable lines between the brows. The surface of the skin is almost rough, honest and realistic with lots of texture, reminiscent of St. Gaudens. The top view of the head shows a center part in the thinning hair, which disguises the balding head beneath. Then there is the uncombed mustache, thick brows and curling eyebrow to add character.

It was William who worked with Frederick Allen to create three works of art at Wheaton College, fitting tributes to an important family in higher education. (A memorial tablet for Samuel Valentine Cole, portrait relief of Annie Talbot Cole and his own bronze portrait bust.) Seemingly of good humor, there is a sly smile on William’s face, almost a smirk as if he were hiding a mischievous secret! One must notice how much character there is in this portrait; humorous and full of personality.

Perhaps that perceived mischief was actually wisdom. The first Mrs. Cole was greatly admired. Pres. Cole talked about her all the time as did others. That must have made the second Mrs. Cole just a little bit jealous, so to avoid conflict, William was the one to order the portrait of Annie. The second Mrs. Cole had nothing to complain about, however. Even though she had always wanted to be a college President, the best she could do was to marry one! And Mr. Cole gave her serious responsibilities, like choosing faculty. Peace was preserved.

It is interesting to note the difference between the carved marble relief of Mrs. Cole and the bronze bust of her brother-in-law done a few years later.

Signed: “F.W.ALLEN ’27” on the proper left vertical edge
Location: Wheaton College Library, Norton, MA

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