Abinger, Near Dorking
Cole was the eldest son of landscape and portrait painter George Cole (1810 - 1883) and Eliza Vicat (died 1883). Initially he accompanied his father to old country houses helping to paint family portraits. Together they made sketching tours in England and Wales in search of landscape subjects. Cole also practiced landscape painting at his father's studio in Portsmouth, copying from engravings by artists including J M W Turner (1775 - 1851), John Constable (1776 - 1837) and David Cox (1783 - 1859). In 1852 the family moved to Fulham and he exhibited his first painting at the British Institution. The following year he exhibited at the Royal Academy of Arts in London. Cole moved to Camden in 1855 and married Mary Ann Chignell (died 1915). They moved to Surrey shortly after and Cole was awarded a silver medal from the Society of Arts for his painting 'Harvest Time', a scene in Surrey painted from Holmbury Hill, looking towards the south-west. Cole exhibited regularly at the Society of British Artists and he became a member in 1858. He moved to Kensington in 1861 and continued to work on detailed landscapes, focusing mainly on views of Surrey and Sussex. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1870 and a member in 1880. Cole was later commissioned by art dealer William Agnew (1825 - 1910) to produce a series of paintings of the Thames.