John Rogers Cox


John Rogers Cox Biography





Cox was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1915. His father, Wilson Naylor Cox, was president of the Terre Haute National Bank. Cox's parents sent him to the University of Pennsylvania to study business but he later enrolled in a Bachelor of Fine Arts program conducted jointly by the University of Pennsylvania and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He graduated in 1938. After failing to find a commercial arts job in New York he returned to Terre Haute and found work as a bank messenger and later a teller. He married Mary Hermine Mayer, a Terre Haute local, on December 27, 1939, and they eventually had three children, two sons, John Rogers Cox, Jr. and Henry Douglas Cox and a daughter, Janet Naylor Cox, born in 1943 who died in childhood.

Cox left his job at the bank in 1941 and was appointed the first director of the newly formed Sheldon Swope Art Gallery in Terre Haute having been offered the position by William T. Turman, professor of art at Indiana State Teachers College a recognized artist and chief adviser to the Swope.Cox, describing Turman's job offer, said "When I heard the word 'painting' and when he offered me $600 a year more than I was making, it didn't take me more than a minute to say yes!"At 26, he was the youngest museum director in the U.S.[4] Cox and his wife Hermine made several trips to New York City to buy art for the gallery. His objective was to buy high quality works by living American artists which would be relatively affordable compared to works by European masters.He assembled the Swope's founding collection purchasing 23 paintings by living American artists in the 15 months before the inaugural show which contained new works by artists such as Grant Wood, Thomas HArt Benton, Charles Burchfield, Zoltan Tepeshy and Edward Hopper. Cox also arranged for the loan of several paintings and sculptures from the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Art Institute of Chicago and Carrie C. Schell, first secretary of the Board of Managers, contributed works by Terre Haute born artists Janet Scudder and Caroline Peddle BallThe museum opened to the public on March 21, 1942, with an exhibition of more than 130 works in six exhibition rooms. Cox was the first name on the registry of guests for the show. In a review of the exhibition, the editor of The Art Digest, Peyton Boswell Jr., said that by building the collection around contemporary American artists, Cox and the Swope board of managers had chosen the path that "brought greatness to the Whitney Museum and to the Addison Gallery in Andover".Seventeen of the original 23 paintings remain at the Swope and the founding collection is still the feature for which the museum is best known.

Cox left the museum and enlisted in the United States Army in 1943. He left the army in 1945 and decided to dedicate his time to painting.By 1948, Cox had completed nine paintings, sold seven, and won two important prizes. Life magazine included a double page color feature about Cox in its edition of July 12, 1948 The article included his painting Wheat and a self-portrait.Cox moved to Chicago in 1948 after the death of his daughter and the break-up of his marriage the previous year.He remained in Chicago, teaching at the chool of the Art Institute until 1965 where he specialized in figure drawing. After 1950 he focused on producing pen and pencil drawings rather than oil paintings.

Cox eventually remarried in 1963 to Donise Kibby, a student of his at the Art Institute of Chicago. They moved several times from Chicago, to Galena, to New Orleans where they had one daughter, Sophia, in 1966. They then moved to Washington, finally settling in Wenatchee in the 1970s. They divorced in the mid 1980s, although they stayed in touch until John's move to Louisville, Kentucky, where he died on January 25, 1990 at the age of 74.

Cox's output as an artist was relatively modest but his works featured in numerous important annual living artist exhibitions during the 1940s and '50s. He worked slowly, painting his landscapes at home, from memory, often taking a year or two to finish a painting.His paintings number fewer than 20.


(From Wikipedia)