Artist Name


birth7/22/1907 in Loeb, TXPicture of Herring Coe
death1/14/1999 in Beaumont, TX
parentsBurrell Columbus Coe and Ida Herring
educationSouth Park College (now Lamar University), Texas
Cranbrook Art Community, Michigan

awards

Matchett Herring Coe was born in Loeb, Texas in 1907. As a young adult, he attended Lamar College, where he studied Electrical Engineering. After receiving his degree, he went to Cranbrook Educational Community, where he studied art.

During World War II, Coe was called to duty and served with the Navy. However, Coe's experience was most likely somewhat different from most men who served in that era, as he was a part of a unit called the Seabees based in Guadalcanal. The name Seabee comes from the initials CB, standing for Construction Battalion. The Seabees were a militarized construction crew that built and razed buildings for the military wherever they were sent.

This undoubtedly influenced Coe's artistic development. As Coe developed as an sculptor, his pieces were characterized as architectural in nature with an affinity for simplicity of form. His works consisted mostly of commissioned works for permanent institutions, including the Battalion Memorial at Guadalcanal, the bronze Dick Dowling at Sabine Pass, TX, and the granite frieze on the cenotaph erected in memory of the children and teachers who perished in a school explosion at New London, TX. He is also the creator of "The Texan" in Vicksburg National Military Park. Several Houston, TX, buildings are adorned with Coe sculptures, including Houston City Hall, Rice University Library, St. Mary's Seminary Chapel, St. Placidus Home for the Aged, First Presbyterian Church, the entrance to Hermann Park Zoo. Numerous other buildings, libraries, courthouses, offices, gardens and residences also boast of Coe works. Apparently, he was not as active as a medalist and his only known medal is the 75th issue of the Society of Medalists series.

For the overwhelming majority of his life, Coe remained in the Beaumont area of Texas, dying in 1999. His works have been featured at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, The Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, and the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D. C.

Sourced from the sources listed in the Resources tab. Special thanks to Sarah Wells from the Clifton Steamboat Museum who was extremely helpful.



You can click medals to switch between obverse and reverse sides and drag to see different variants (if there are any).

Beyond the Sky, Beneath the Sea 1967
by Herring Coe
SOM-75.1
Golden bronze with light tan patina

This design by Matchett Herring Coe was chosen as the 75th issue of the prestigious Society of Medalists series. The medal's obverse bears a mermaid on a mythological sea-horse. The reverse bears a flying saucer with laser-like beams of light. Two-line legend above, BEYOND THE SKY AND BENEATH THE SEA / ARE KNOWN BUT TO GOD AND FANTASY.

Coe's medal drew some criticism from Society members. While there was agreement that the medal's obverse was very beautiful, the reverse was called "unfortunate" and "a bit too much on the moderne." Be that as it may, Coe and the selection committee showed courage in putting forward this fanciful design. Coe's message was described in his message "From the Artist:"

"We attribute to the unknown aspects of the familiar, and it is not that we believe what we see, but that we see what we believe..."

He used the flying saucer as a symbol for the modern people's attempt to make sense of phenomena beyond their present understanding.

The medal measures 73mm and was produced by the Medallic Art Company of New York, which reported a mintage of 845 bronze pieces.

SOM-75.1
Bronze
73.0mm (2.87in)
Golden bronze with light tan patina
THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS 75TH ISSUE - 1967 - HERRING COE, SC.(C)
MEDALLIC ART CO.N.Y. BRONZE
SOM-75.2
Bronze
73.0mm (2.87in)
Golden bronze with light tan patina
THE SOCIETY OF MEDALISTS 75TH ISSUE - 1967 - HERRING COE, SC.(C)
MEDALLIC ART CO.-DANBURY, CONN

  • New London School Cenotaph

    New London School Cenotaph (1939)

    In 1937, the New London School exploded, killing at least 311 teachers and students. Due to a leak, natural gas had been building up in crawl spaces of the building before a spark from an electric sander triggered the explosion. Approximately 640 people were in the building at the time, of which approximately 130 escaped unscathed. To this day, it remains the deadliest school related incident.

    The memorial is appropriately a cenotaph, a Greek word meaning empty grave. Cenotaphs are erected to posthumously honor a person or a group. Coe cut the sculptural block from Texas granite. The block stands on pillars of concrete, and a base upon which the names of all known victims have been carved. The block features twelve figures, two teachers and ten students in the process of handing in homework and gifts. Donald Nelson was appointed overseeing architect, and selected Herring Coe's design for the sculptural block.

    The original image can be found here.

  • Cobra at Houston Zoo

    Hooded Cobra (1960)

    This larger than life Hooded Cobra can be found guarding the entrance to the Herpetology Building at the Houston Zoo. Coe created a beautiful bronze representation of a deadly venomous animal, in striking poise.

    The unclipped image is courtesy of the Clifton Steamboat Museum.

  • Pan

    Pan (undated)

    Matchett Herring Coe gave this lovable Pan sculpture to his sister Callie Mae Wilson on the occasion of her wedding. It must have been wonderful to have an artist of Coe's talent as a brother...

    The unclipped image is courtesy of the Clifton Steamboat Museum.

  • Womand and Frog

    Woman and Frog (undated)

    This is a beautiful sculpture of a frog looking up at a nude woman standing in sensuous pose.

    The unclipped image is courtesy of the Clifton Steamboat Museum.



Contact me if you have links that might merit inclusion on this page.

Books & Articles

American Art Medals, 1909-1995 by David Thomason Alexander
David T. Alexander's book can be purchased at the above link. Highly recommended for anyone interested in SOM. I am deeply indebted to him for all the information I used to document the SOM medals on this site.
American Numismatic Society
David T. Alexander's book can be purchased at the above link. Highly recommended for anyone interested in SOM. I am deeply indebted to him for all the information I used to document the SOM medals on this site.

Research Archives and Websites

Find a Grave
A nice little bio with the exact dates of birth and death.
Herring Coe Bas Reliefs
A page about Coe's bas-reliefs at the Houston zoo.

Museums

Clifton Steamboat Museum
The Clifton Steamboat Museum received Coe's legacy from his sister.
Metropolitan Musem of Art, New York City
The Met has a copy of his Society of Medalists medal.