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 J. W. S. Cox  (1911 - 1982)

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Lived/Active: Massachusetts      Known for: figure, landscape, street scene

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Ad Code: 4
J W S Cox
from Auction House Records.
Star Race, Rockport
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
Biography from Pierce Galleries, Inc.:
J.W.S. Cox (American, 1911-1982)

J.W.S. Cox was a formidable, innovative watercolorist who is known for having invented the wet-on-wet watercolor technique (immersing paper in water and painting wet watercolor pigments onto the wet paper, so that the pigments could spread and take on a “life” of their own.

Cox was born May 18, 1911 in Yonkers, New York, the son of an architect and his wife. He grew up in Bruynswick and Wallkill, New York, and from an early age sketched landscapes. He graduated from Pratt Institute in New York City (1933), while working at various jobs during the Great Depression. From 1828-1936 Cox studied the works of El Greco for compostion, Feininger for design, Turner for color and Cezanne for style and brushwork, John Marin for composition and color, Marsden Hartley for design, Whistler for technique and Charles Burchfield for style and subject matter.

In 1936, Cox studied in Paris at the Academie Colarossie and studied for one year with Fauvist Othon Friesz (1879-1949) in an atelier on rue de la Grande Chaumiere. He became acquainted with Andre Derain, Albert Marquet, Raoul Dufy, Georges Rouault and Maurice Vlaminick while at Friesz’s studio but Cox decided not to paint in a pure Fauvist style because it seemed a “sloppy” approach to art.

Returing to Boston, fluent in several foreign languages (he spoke 14 at his death), he entered the Eliot O’Hara summer classes in Goose Rock’s Beach, Maine. In 1938, the same year he illustrated a historical novel titled Listen for the Voice. In 1939 he entered Boston University’s Art History program and worked in the Art Department of the Christian Science Monitor. Within a few years, he taught huge classes of students how to paint in watercolor along T Wharf, Boston and in Rockport, Hyannis and Nantucket, and established a studio on Bearskin Neck, Rockport, where he developed his “sponge painting” and palette-knife watercolor techniques.

By 1945, Cox was given a one-man show at Doll & Richards Gallery, Boston, where he showed views of Nantucket, Venice (Italy), Rockport, Gloucester and Maine and in a rave critique critic Dorothy Adlow noted the artist’s Japanese-like touch.

Wanting to remain “his own man” and not paint commerical pictures, Cox developed a unique individualistic style. He became a member of the Boston Watercolor Society, Cape Ann Society of Moderns, Boston Society of Independents; Copley Society;the American Watercolor Society (A.W.S.) and the Rockport Art Association, but he shunned publicity and disliked being a member of any group because time was too precious and he preferred to paint than socialize.

Cox turned down Aldro T. Hibbard’s offer to sponsor Cox for membership into the National Academy because Cox “wouldn’t play the game.”

Cox corresponded with Charles Burchfield and continuously experimented with technique. He lived in Rockport (summers) through 1960, and from 1947-1960 ran the Cox Gallery on Newbury Street, Boston. Later, he first taught Color Theory and Perspective at the New England School of Art, Boston; became head instructor of Design and Watercolor Techniques, then Director of Painting and Training; and Director of the School in 1961. In 1975, he incorporated the school into a non-profit organization.

Cox visited (summers) and painted with his students on Nantucket from 1938-1956. From 1955-1964, he became a world traveler who painted almost every country’s landscapes and by 1976 he was a pre-Columbian expert of sculpture and pottery and the Museo de la Salud gave him an office so that he could study artifacts that predated 2000 B.C.

J.W.S. Cox was a “Renaissance Man” who spoke many languages; traveled the world painting scenes few had ever seen; was a teacher, art school administrator; illustrator and lecturer. His goal was “to present myself and the soul of nature as truthfully and with as much inspiration, vitality and freshness as is possible, through the medium of watercolor.”

He is in the permanent collections of Museum of Fine Arts; Fitchburg Museum; Reading Museum; Ford Motor Company; Harvard Law School; Sinton Collection, London and elsewhere.

He died in Massachusetts in 1982.

Biography: Pierce, Patricia Jobe, THE WATERCOLORED WORLD OF J.W.S.COX (1981)
ESTATE REPRESENTATIVES: Pierce Galleries, Inc., Hingham, MA 1982-

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