Critters and Beasts

by Alden Cole on February 2, 2015 · 0 comments

“Serenity of spirit and turbulence of action should make up the sum of a man’s life.” – Vita Sackville-West

1934Harris&RichwCalfWP1934: Although there’s not much turbulence of action in the accompanying snapshot, there’s definitely serenity of spirit on the faces of both my father Richard Cole and my grandfather Harris, aka ‘Pa’ Cole; no bull. When I look at this photo I question if the Guernsey calf in my grandfather’s lap was destined for a short life, soon to be converted into milk-fed veal; or did it grow up to be a milk-cow giving of itself year after year. Or did another fate await this calf; like becoming king of the herd, with a ring in its nose, similar to the Guernsey bull I attempted to immortalize in paint back in 2012 for another Animal Show?

BullyBoyWPBully Boy, aka Chauncey the Bull • oil on linen, 17″ x 24″• collection of the artist
Now on view at the Plastic Club, 247 Camac St., Philadelphia, PA, through February 19th in their Critters and Beasts show.
The inspiration for the above painting was this small b&w snapshot taken sometime in the 30s, I’m not sure by whom. Most likely suspect is aunt Charlotte Cole, who was definitely intrepid enough to stalk this solitary handsome fellow in his own territory – the fields behind the farm – for the purpose of capturing a good photograph of the herd’s sire, the source of the farm’s prosperity. Like the “King of the Wood” in Fraser’s The Golden Bough, the reign of any bull was temporary, always dependent on virility.

1930TheBull2WPIn the second shot by the same hardy, or possibly foolish, photographer, the same stalwart king is outstanding in his field. There’s a sense of animated unease in the big fellow as he takes stock of the creature behind the camera, wondering if that strange being that is not of his ‘kind’ will attempt to come closer or not. That look of skittish animal mistrust would have had me seeking safer ground. 🙂

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