John Rogers Cox, American (1915 - 1990)

John Rogers Cox

John Rogers Cox (24 March 1915 – 30 January 1990) was an American painter from Terre Haute, Indiana. His style and subject matter align him with the Regionalist (American scene painting) and Magic Realist landscape tradition.

Cox was born in Terre Haute, Indiana in 1915. His father, Wilson Naylor Cox, was president of the Terre Haute National Bank, later Terre Haute First National Bank. John Rogers was one of four brothers, Wilson Naylor "W.N." Cox, Jr., the eldest, born in 1909, Francis "Fritz" Gardenhire Cox, the next oldest born two years later, and twins John Rogers and Benjamin Guille born on March 24, 1915. 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 Museum 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. Cox 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 Sepeshy and Edward Hopper. The museum opened to the public on March 21, 1942. The founding collection is still the feature for which the museum is best known.
Cox left the museum and enlisted in the US 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 July 12, 1948 edition. 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 School of the Art Institute of Chicago 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 30, 1990 at the age of 74.

The art historian, John I.H. Baur, described Cox's work as an exemplar of "hard, immaculate-related realism" in his 1951 study Revolution and Tradition in Modern American Art for the Library of Congress.[19] Michael D. Hall, describing Cox's work in an essay to accompany the Flint Institute of Arts's exhibition in 2003, Great Lakes Muse: American Scene Painting from the Upper Midwest, 1910 - 1960, said "His own signature landscape vistas are imaginary Midwestern places filled with emptiness-visual contradictions suffused with momentous and ominous signs."

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