Gardner Cox was born in Holyoke, Massachusetts on January 22, 1905. He studied at Harvard College, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Boston Museum of Fine Arts School. He held the position of head of the Department of Painting at the Boston Museum School and lived in Cambridge.
He started his art career comparatively late in 1936 at the age of thirty, after working as an architect in his father’s firm. Painting had long been a passion; Gardner’s mother was a gifted artist who had studied in Paris, and Cox had already honed his skills as a painter. People liked his work, he could make a living. “In those days I did landscapes,” Gardner remembered, “And after World War II, I painted oils of cobwebs in the dewy morning grass.” On a painting trip with friends, an annual Columbus Day event, he usually painted a single leaf, the papery veinings meticulously rendered, just as every spring it was a ritual for him to paint a single crocus.
Though he was primarily known as a painter of portraits, he also produced highly accomplished still-lifes and landscapes, such as the one seen here. Titled “Wind,” it depicts a copy of the New York Times forcefully blown eover the horizon by the wind, suggesting the unfolding of tumultuous world events. The painting hung on display at the Carnegie Institute on December 7, 1941, eerily prefiguring the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and the United State’s entry into World War II.
Cox painted portraits for over fifty years – long enough to have been working when portraiture was the most prestigious field a painter could choose. His sitters included Robert Frost, Henry Kissinger, Robert Kennedy, Michael Dukakis and seven Supreme Court Justices.
His work is found in many private and public collections, including at the National Gallery of Art, Washington D.C.; National Portrait Gallery, London; Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.