Jacob Cox was born in Burlington New Jersey, the first of ten children born to a Quaker couple who died in separate ferry accidents. Cox’s grandfather and aunt in Washington, Pennsylvania became his guardians. By that time the young Cox was already interested in art. He was apprenticed to a tinsmith at the age of sixteen. In 1830, Cox and his brother established a tinsmith shop, first in Pittsburgh and later in Indianapolis. The business prospered forcing Cox to pursue his painting during his spare time. By 1835 painting portraits was added to Cox’s business. Cox closed his shop and traveled to Cincinnati to study with John Dunn, returning to Indianapolis to paint portraits of such local notables as Senator Oliver Smith, Governors David Wallace and Noah Noble, State Treasurer Samuel Merrill, and numerous prominent businessmen and their families. His success enabled Cox to travel to New York City to study briefly at the National Academy of Design. Upon his return, he found time to add landscapes and still life to his repertoire. When the Indiana School of Art was established in Indianapolis in 1877, Cox became one of its teachers. He continued to paint and exhibit until his death at eighty one.
Farmyard Scene displays an unqualified enthusiasm for the vitality, bounty, and sheer visual appeal of rural life. Cox continually searched for themes that would appeal to Midwestern patrons, and images of prosperity derived from working the land must have been popular subjects. The European style of the architecture in Farmyard Scene suggests that Cox was probably inspired by Dutch and English painting. Perhaps he was striving to elevate the familiar barnyard scenery through associations with Old World culture. In this canvas Cox gave prominence to the natural beauty and vigor of the animals and relegated the two women and the buildings to the shadowed areas of the scene.
Paintings by Jacob Cox a Retrospective Exhibition of Work by an Early Indianapolis Artist, Indianapolis: John Herron Art Museum, 1941. ASIN: B001O1F2TS