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Sketch for the Mural at Oberlin College, "The Spirit of Self-Sacrificing Love"

ca. 1914 Kenyon Cox Born: Warren, Ohio 1856 Died: New York, New York 1919 oil and pencil on canvas 11 7/8 x 15 1/4 in. (30.2 x 38.8 cm.) Smithsonian American Art Museum Gift of Mrs. Ambrose Lansing 1983.114.15 Smithsonian American Art Museum
Luce Foundation Center, 4th Floor, 35B

Luce Center Label

In late 1913, Oberlin College commissioned Kenyon Cox to decorate the new administration building on the campus with a mural in memory of his father, Jacob Dolson Cox. The elder Cox had been governor of Ohio and secretary of the Interior under President Grant, and Cox designed a decorative tablet listing his father’s accomplishments for a small vestibule. After he completed the project, the administrators wanted Cox to come up with another design to complement it. He decided to include a tribute to his mother, Helen Finney Cox, who had made a name for herself in Ohio as a promoter of social work. This study shows Cox’s plan for a lunette titled “The Spirit of Self-Sacrificing Love,” based on what he described as his mother’s “Biblical charity.” Cox’s depiction of a laurel-crowned, winged figure holding a glowing torch pleased university administrators, who adopted it as the official seal on college publications. (Morgan, Kenyon Cox, 1856-1919: A Life in American Art, 1994)


Allegory - passion - love

Fantasy - winged being

Figure female - full length

Object - art object - painting



paint - oil


fabric - canvas

About Kenyon Cox

Born: Warren, Ohio 1856 Died: New York, New York 1919

More works in the collection by
Kenyon Cox