Published: October 7, 2008
The Yale Center for British Art will be the first and only US venue for a major retrospective of David Cox (1783‱859), marking the 150th anniversary of the artist’s death. “Sun, Wind, and Rain: The Art of David Cox” examines the work of this important figure in the development of British landscape and watercolor painting. Following its run at YCBA, October 16⁊anuary 4, the exhibition will travel to the Birmingham Museums and Gallery, England, where it will be on view January 31⁍ay 3.
This is the first significant exhibition devoted to Cox’s work since 1983; it includes more than 100 of his watercolors and drawings and approximately a dozen oil paintings. The works are drawn from the center’s collection, as well as from public and private collections in Great Britain and the United States.
The exhibition takes its title from one of Cox’s best-known watercolors, painted in 1845. Showing a farmer and his wife riding through stormy open country as a distant train crosses the horizon, “Sun, Wind, and Rain” (Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery) is emblematic of the concerns with the representation of light and atmosphere and weather that lie at the heart of his landscape art. Throughout a long and productive career, Cox made a specialty of capturing the effects of wind and weather in the English and Welsh countryside. The bold and vigorous style of his later years prefigures Impressionism.
Cox has long been appreciated for his mastery of the medium of watercolor, but the quality of his landscape painting in oils has yet to be fully recognized. This exhibition will enable the public to gauge the full extent of Cox’s achievement and restore the artist to his position as one of the great landscape painters of the Romantic era.
Born in Birmingham, Cox began as a watercolor painter in London in 1804, the founding year of the Society of Painters in Water Colours, of which he would later become a member and regular exhibitor. Through the 1830s his watercolors reflected many of the dominant trends in British landscape and watercolor painting during the Romantic era. In the later 1830s he took up oil painting, and in 1841 he returned to Birmingham to pursue his work in the new medium. He by no means abandoned watercolor painting, and in these same years his watercolors gained a remarkable boldness, gravity and freedom of technique that set them apart from current fashion. In the last decades of his life he stood out as one of watercolors most original and distinctive practitioners.
A fully illustrated catalog, published by the Yale Center for British Art, Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and Yale University Press, will accompany the exhibition. Edited and written by Scott Wilcox, with essays by Victoria Osborne, Peter Bower, Charles Nugent, Greg Smith and Stephen Wildman, this is the first book in English on the artist since the catalog of the major David Cox exhibition at Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery and the Victoria and Albert Museum, 1983‸4.
Yale Center for British Art is at 1080 Chapel Street. For more information, 203-432-2800 or www.yale.edu/ycba .
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