Seth Cole, Jr. was a well-known late 1800s artist from Alton, NY. In 1984, The Wayne County Historical Society sponsored an exhibition of his works at the Wayne County Museum. The Museum still has a number of his works available for viewing. In their booklet for the exhibit (‘SETH Cole Introduction and Catalogue by Sylvia Farrer-Bornath”) Fred H. Rollins wrote the following foreword:
Seth Cole, Ir. (1829-1903) was an outstanding upstate New York self-taught portrait and landscape artist who lived much of his life in Alton, Wayne County, New York. As a young adult, he spent two adventurous years on a whaling voyage around Cape Horn, Chili, and Peru. The oil landscapes which remain from this South American period show that Cole had already developed a very fine sense of craftsmanship and an original style – while not yet 20 years old.
Cole remains most well-known, however, for his portraits, most of which were executed in pencil. Many of his portraits are of Wayne County residents, both well-known and not so famous. He was an excellent representative of the trade of itinerant artist in late 19th century America; his works were of enough artistic merit to survive serious challenges from the rapidly emerging competition from photographic studios in the 1870’s, 1880’s, and 1890’s.
The Wayne County Historical Society is very grateful to the New York State Council on the Arts, which has provided most of the funds required to make this exhibit possible. The Council on the Arts has also underwritten the cost of this Seth Cole exhibit catalog. In addition, we are deeply indebted to the many lenders to this exhibit, whose generosity and cooperation also made it possible. We are also thankful to Sylvia Farrer-Bornarth, whose tireless efforts brought this project to its fruition.
The Historical Society is indeed honored to be able to sponsor this exhibition of that very versatile, sensitive, and talented fellow, Seth Cole Jr.
Fred H. Rollins
Wayne County Historical Society