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Cox, Jacob Pogue’s Run, The Swimming Hole, 1840


Born in Burlington, New Jersey, Jacob Cox came to Indianapolis in 1833 to open a stove, tinware, and coppersmithing business with his brother. In 1840 he painted a political banner for the presidential campaign of William Henry Harrison. The following year, he printed a card announcing himself as a portrait painter and asking Indianapolis citizens to visit his studio on Washington Street between Illinois and Meridian. Although he lacked formal training, Cox had painted landscapes, “fancy” pictures, and portraits in his spare time.

In 1842 he opened a studio in Cincinnati with John G. Dunn, but returned to Indianapolis in 1843 and through hard work gained recognition as a master craftsman. His portraits, figure compositions, and landscapes hung in numerous homes in the city. He still found it necessary, however, to make a living in his tin business for many years. Finally, after several years as a prosperous fulltime painter, he went to New York City and painted some of its most prominent citizens. Around 1860 he received his first formal training at the National Academy of Design, and then returned to Indiana in 1861. He taught many talented students, including William Merritt Chase, who called Cox his “father in art,” and his own daughter, Julia. His considerable talent and stature is reflected in the many portraits he made for the Indiana Governors’ Portraits Collection, started in 1869 by Gov. Conrad Baker.

  • Pogue’s Run, The Swimming Hole, 1840
  • 18 1/2″ x 24 1/2″
  • Courtesy of Indiana State Museum and Historic Sites
  • Keywords: paintings, agricultural landscapes, cultural landscapes, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: outdoors, trees, fences, bridges, streams, domestic animals, clouds

Although this landscape of an Indianapolis location is tranquil and pastoral, it also is a realistic portrayal of the location and documents some aspects of the era and locale. Note the pole fence on the right and how well constructed and substantial the bridge is. Pogue’s Run was the subject of many works of art and poetry. Pogue’s Run is a stream that cut southwest through the original plat of Indianapolis, necessitating some changes in the layout of streets. Starting near what is now 34th Street and Arlington Avenue, it crosses Washington Street (the National Road) and drops below downtown Indianapolis to join White River. Jacob Piatt Dunn’s book Greater Indianapolis (Lewis Publishing Company, 1910, vol. 1) reprints the original 1821 plat and an 1830 map.

Some Points To Consider

  • Explain to students that artists from many cultures throughout history have painted pastoral scenes in many geographic areas. Typically such paintings are idyllic or rustic scenes and give the viewer a feeling of peace or contentment. Ask students to describe any aspects of this painting they think are restful. What would they want to do if they were part of that scene? Give them time to look in reference books or online to find a similar painting from another time and culture that conveys the same mood. (Art 4.2.2, 4.3.2)