COX, David (senior), 1783-1859. Artist. Best known for his landscape paintings of English and Welsh scenery, David Cox was born in Birmingham, the son of a blacksmith. Following his apprenticeship to a painter of miniatures, he became a scene painter at the Birmingham Theatre. In 1804 he moved to London where he continued with scene-painting and absorbed himself in the task of learning to be an artist. In 1808, when he married Mary Ragg, he moved into a small cottage on the edge of Dulwich Common. The exact location is not known for certain although Tom Morris (qv) claimed that ‘the site of his home was, no doubt, at the back of Blew House, a fine old rustic cottage…and now gone to decay’ (A Short history of Dulwich Village, p6). He supplemented his earnings with teaching, and made many studies on the Common of gypsies and of the windmill which once stood there. His son, David (1809-1885), also an outstanding artist, was born in Dulwich.
In 1814 he moved to Farnham and later to Hereford where he taught in various schools. In 1841 he returned to Birmingham where he lived until his death. In 1836 Cox made a technical discovery that was to give his work a distinctive character - he started to use a rough textured wrapping paper made in Dundee which well suited his rapid strokes and his representation of windswept landscapes with rough atmospheric effects. However he only ordered one ream, and when it was finished was never able to obtain the same quality of paper again. A similar paper today is always known as ‘David Cox’ paper.