Exhibition Is First Major U.S. Retrospective of David Cox

The first major U.S. retrospective of the art of British landscape and watercolor painter David Cox (1783-1859) will open at the Yale Center for British Art on Thursday, Oct. 16.

The first major U.S. retrospective of the art of British landscape and watercolor painter David Cox (1783-1859) will open at the Yale Center for British Art on Thursday, Oct. 16.

The exhibit, titled “Sun, Wind and Rain: The Art of David Cox,” marks the 150th anniversary of the artist’s death. The first significant exhibition devoted to his work since 1983, it features more than 100 of his watercolors and drawings and approximately a dozen oil paintings. The works are drawn from the center’s collection and 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” is emblematic of the concerns of light, atmosphere and weather that lie at the heart of Cox’s landscape art, according to organizers of the exhibit. Throughout his long and productive career, Cox made a specialty of capturing the effects of wind and weather in the English and Welsh countryside. The style of his later years prefigures Impressionism.

According to Scott Wilcox, a leading authority on the artist and the co-curator of the exhibition, Cox has long been appreciated for his mastery of the medium of watercolor, but his breadth of interests, intellectual depth and art-historical awareness have been consistently undervalued. Likewise, says Wilcox, the quality of his landscape painting in oils has yet to be fully recognized. The exhibition is meant 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, England, 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. Throughout these years, Cox did not abandon watercolor painting, and in the last decades of his life he stood out as one of the most original and distinctive of watercolor painters, says Wilcox.

“Sun, Wind and Rain” has been co-organized by the Yale Center for British Art and the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, England. Victoria Osborne, curator of art for the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, is the co-curator of the exhibition.

A fully illustrated catalog, published by the Yale Center for British Art, the Yale Press and the Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery, accompanies the exhibition.

Wilcox will present an opening lecture, “‘A Most Dangerous Model’: David Cox’s Legacy,” on Wednesday, Oct. 15, at 5:30 p.m. at the center. He will also lead an “Art in Context” discussion of the exhibition on Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 12:30 p.m. Other events taking place this month in connection with the exhibit include exhibition tours at noon on Saturday, Oct. 18, at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 23, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 26. On Wednesday, Oct. 22, inde­pendent scholar Greg Smith will present a lecture on “Painting Wind and Rain: David Cox and the ‘English Art of Water Colours’ ” at 5:30 p.m.

The Yale Center for British Art, 1080 Chapel St., is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. (Wednesdays until 8 p.m. through Nov. 19) and Sunday, noon-5 p.m. The center is also open until 8 p.m. on the first Thursday of each month and on Dec. 11 and 18. For more information and a complete schedule of events, visit the center’s website at www.yale.edu/ycba or call (203) 432-2800.

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