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Fine Art, Women Escaping Komodo Dragon, Alphaeus P. Cole, Vintage Oil Painting, 1961


Alphaeus Philemon Cole (1876-1988)
[Women Escaping a Komodo Dragon]
American: 1961
Oil on linen, unframed
Signed and dated lower left
16 x 20 inches

A painting with unusual subject matter — five frightened nude women, possibly intended to be woodland nymphs, scrambling out of the water where they were bathing and onto the banks of a stream to escape a large, menacing Komodo dragon wading in from the opposite bank. (A Komodo dragon is a giant lizard native to some Indonesian islands.)  The stream is set in a lush green tropical setting. It is painted in a loose painterly style, perhaps as a study for a larger work. This is a late work by Cole, painted when he was around 85, the same year that his first wife died.

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Alphaeus Philemon Cole was a painter known for his portraits in a naturalistic style, based in New York City for most of his life. Born in New Jersey, he was the son of Timothy Cole, a noted 19th-century engraver of Old Master paintings, and he later co-authored a book on his father with his wife, the sculptor Margaret Ward Warmsley (died 1961). Like other ambitious American artists at the turn of the century, he received his art training in Europe, under Isaac Craig in Italy and in Paris at the Ecole des Beaux Arts and in 1892 at the Academie Julian under Jean Paul Laurens and Benjamin Constant. Cole exhibited in the Paris Salon between 1900 and 1903, and moved to England in 1903. While living there he exhibited regularly at the Royal Academy between 1904 and 1910. He returned from Europe and settled in New York in 1911. Cole became a member of the Salmagundi Club in 1918, served as president of the New York Water Color Club from 1931 to 1941, and was elected to the National Academy in 1941; he exhibited his work with all these institutions. Cole’s papers are in the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art. Cole lived to the age of 112; at the time he was the oldest known living man.


“Alphaeus P. Cole Papers.” Archives of American Art. 2021. (26 January 2021).

Gilbert, Dorothy B., ed. Who’s Who in American Art. New York: American Federation of Arts and R.R. Bowker, 1959. p. 110.

Kimmelman, Michael. “Alphaeus Cole, a Portraitist, 112.” New York Times. 26 November 1988. p. 29. Online at: (26 January 2021).

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20th Century