The Passion of Collecting Academic Nudes

Join me as we explore my collection of Academic Nudes from the 18th, 19th, and Early 20th Centuries and serendipitous finds in the Museum, Art Auction, and Gallery world......examples from the Golden Age of the European Academie

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Kenyon Cox (1856 - 1919) Study For Genius With Sword - Nude Boy


Kenyon Cox (1856 - 1919)

Interior scenes from the Appellate Court, NYC

For me, Kenyon Cox exemplifies the quintessential qualities of Academic Art. He was a painter of classical figure subjects, landscapes, and portraits. He is most known for his national fame as a muralist. To say he was a well rounded artist would be an understatement. In addition he was a writer and art critic who became one of America's most outspoken champions of traditional art. (My hero!) Cox was born into a prominent family in Warren, Ohio. He began drawing as a boy and a serious illness kept him bedridden for much of the time between ages nine and thirteen. He attended the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati from 1869 to 1873. In 1874, he attended Frank Duvneck's life class at the Ohio Mechanics Institute.

In 1876, Cox enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, where he was taught by Christian C. Schussele, a painter of literary and historical subjects. Finding his courses boring and feeling his instructor was our of touch with the latest trends in art, Cox began cutting classes in order to sketch, read, and visit local Galleries. He left Philadelphia in the fall of 1877 for Paris.

In Paris, he initially worked in the atelier of portraitist Emile Auguste Carolus-Duran, the teacher of John Singer Sargent, who advocated a painterly technique that Cox found antithetical to his love of drawing. Seeking to refine his fine drawing skills, he attended classes at the Academie Julian under William-Adolphe Bouguereau, Jules Lefebrve, and Gustave Boulanger. In 1879, he was accepted into the prestigious Ecole des Beaux-Arts, where he spent three years studying under the famous history and genre painter Jean-Leon Gerome, whose emphasis on drawing, composition, and finish made a lasting impression on Cox. He immersed himself in the cultural life of Paris during his stay and made excursions to London and Brussels. He was also among the many American painters who frequented the artists' colony at Grez-sur-Loing.

Cox returned to America in 1882 and after a brief visit to Cincinnati, he moved to New York and began exhibiting with the Society of American Artists, a progressive organization comprised of European trained artists. He showed works at the National Academy of Design also. During his years in New York, he painted portraits, plein air landscapes, and sensuous academic nudes, the nudes causing a stir in the art world. (Good for him, a man after my own heart!)

At this time, Cox began writing about art, supplementing his income by writing critical reviews, first for The Nation, and eventually for a variety of journals and newspapers. Cox used his writings as a forum to express his conservative views about art and he went on to become a spokesman for conventional ideals. In his view, one that I share, good art was based upon simplicity of design, solid craftsmanship, an ideal rendering of the figure, and a knowledge of Art history. These were values he acquired while studying under Gerome in Paris.

Kenyon Cox was without any doubt a master draftsman. In 1884 he joined the faculty of the Art Students League of New york, remaining there until 1909. Cox achieved his greatest fame during the 1890's when he executed decorative mural commissions for the Library of Congress, Iowa and Minnesota State Capitols, the Essex County Courthouse in Newark, New Jersey, The Appellate Court Building in New York City, and many other important public structures. Classical in conception and inspired by Renaissance models, Cox's murals were admired for the simple designs and subtle use of color.

By the end of his career, Cox acquired a reputation as a staunch conservative who vilified, in my opinion for good reason, modern art movements. He produced a very fascinating body of work, both artistic and published writings. He died in 1919 in New York City. His work is found in major collections throughout the United States. (Thanks to the Spanierman Gallery for their informative history on the life of Kenyon Cox)


The following drawing from my collection is a signed study titled: "Study for Genius with Sword" (genius in this context meaning the guardian spirit of a place, institution, or nation), from the mural Kenyon Cox executed for "The Statute Law" in the late 1890's for the Appellate Court of New York in Manhattan. I feel very fortunate to have found this beautiful little drawing and having added it to my collection. Although it is obviously a working drawing, it is a supreme example of Kenyon Cox's superb draftsmanship and his appreciation of the human form. He has captured the very nobility of the youth in this beautiful little drawing. Interestingly, I found another drawing of the same model in a very similar pose on line and have posted it below.

Caption: Nude Boy - Study for Genius with Sword - For the Mural "The Statute Law"
Appellate Court Building, New York City
Artist: Kenyon Cox (1856 - 1919)
Medium: Pencil on laid paper
Dated: undated (1899 most probably)


Here are some additional examples of Kenyon Cox's works:

Nude Boy, Study for Genius from Common Law..
Oils, Male Nude Study ...1877

Study for Columbia and Cuba ... magazine cover, circa 1898

An Eclogue ...1890

Color Study for "The Statute Law"

Drawing from the Antique...Discus Thrower..1873

Study..After Botraffio..Sacred Conversion

Book of Pictures - 1910 -1917
Christ ... 1905

Portrait of Augustus Saint-Gaudens...1887

Bird Song ..1896

Blond ..Nude Female - 1891

Cartoon for Mural Institute of Justice

Drapery Study

Nude by the Rivers Edge .. 1908

Plenty ...1910

Reclining Female Nude Study

Romance - Nude Study

Science Instructing Industry..Drapery Study ...1898

Science Instructing Industry .. Nude Study

Standing Male Nude - 1873 - 74

Studies of Male Nudes .. 1893

Study for Commerce 1903

Study for Evening

Study for Evening 1883

Study for Private Library... 1894

Color Study for Science Instructing Industry..1898

Color Studies for The Progress of Civilization ...1905

The Peri - 1884

The Stars Sang in Their Spheres - 1886

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