I was commissioned by John Coonen in 2005 to paint a portrait of the 19th century Chicago wheat baron Charles Sydney Dole. Mr. Dole built the beautiful Dole Mansion in Crystal Lake, Illinois. As with all of my commissioned paintings, and especially those of historic figures, research was important before beginning the painting. There is 0nly one image of Charles Dole in the McHenry County Historical Society archives.
Working from the postage stamp sized newspaper clipping dated 1865 provided little visual reference for this 36" x 24" painting. Rather than relying upon visual references for the portrait I pieced together clues or meaningful objects that would describe the man Charles Dole.
Understanding the style of clothing and type of fabric from the late 19th century U.S. was
important aspect of the representation. The riding crop in his hand represents the horses and stable he owned, and so loved to watch from his roof top copula of the mansion. Charles Dole was an entrepetuer, and developed the first wheat sorting system that equipped train cars transporting wheat from the Midwest to the East coast. Note the books on his desk and the wheat decorative element on his chair. In the photo of Charles Dole it appears that his forehead was quite high, so that may be a distinguishing characteristic that Charles Dole would appreciate in his portrait.
The painting is installed over the fireplace mantle in the newly refurbished dining room of the Dole Mansion. The height where the painting is hung and unusual lighting make an accurate photograph of the painting challenging, however this photo gives you an idea of what Charles Dole must have looked like around 1990 when he was at the prime of his life.
You can learn more about Charles Dole and the Dole Mansion by logging on to the Lakeside Legacy Arts Park web site http://www.lakesidelegacy.org/