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

  • Kenyon Cox, Sketch for the Mural at Oberlin College, "The Spirit of Self-Sacrificing Love", ca. 1914, oil and pencil on canvas, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mrs. Ambrose Lansing, 1983.114.15

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, 18561919: A Life in American Art, 1994)

Sketch for the Mural at Oberlin College, The Spirit of Self-Sacrificing Love”
ca. 1914
11 7815 14 in. (30.238.8 cm.)
Credit Line

Smithsonian American Art Museum

Gift of Mrs. Ambrose Lansing

Mediums Description
oil and pencil on canvas
  • Allegory – passion – love
  • Object – art object – painting
  • Figure female – full length
Object Number
Linked Open Data
Linked Open Data URI