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Cox, Jacob Scene in Indianapolis, 1865


Born in Burlington, New Jersey, Jacob Cox came to Indianapolis in 1833 to open a stove, tin ware, 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.

  • Scene in Indianapolis, 1865
  • 26″ x 40″
  • Indianapolis Museum of Art
  • Keywords: paintings, natural landscapes, cultural landscapes, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: outdoors, people, domestic animals, creeks, bridges

This landscape features a log bridge across Fall Creek where the Illinois Street bridge is now located. It is difficult to imagine that this serene site is the same as that major thoroughfare today. Note that this bridge has a railing and an obviously constructed base at the edge of the creek.

Some Points To Consider

Discuss with the class how this painting helps people to understand the growth that Indiana has experienced. Ask students to list in their altered book journals all the ways this painting reminds them that things in Indiana have changed since the state’s beginnings. (Art 4.1.1)