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Cox, Jacob Still Life, No Date


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.

  • Still Life, n.d.
  • 23″ x 19″
  • Private Collection
  • Keywords: paintings, still lifes, oil on canvas
  • Subjects: indoors, grapes, fruit, wine, glass, grapevines

This still life is painted with a lot of detail. It could have been a study in painting many textures and materials. The triangular composition contains examples of various fruits, glass, cloth drapery, and wood. The frame is of an ornate style that enhances the finished appearance of such a finely detailed painting.

Some Points To Consider

  • Help students analyze the qualities of this still life using the art elements line, shape, form, texture, color, and space and the principles repetition, variety, rhythm, proportion, movement, balance, and emphasis. Ask students: How does this painting appeal to the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell? (Art 4.3.1, 4.7.1, 4.7.2)
  • Ask students why early Hoosiers might have enjoyed hanging this painting in their homes. (Art 4.5.1)