Celebrating A True Norfolk Artistic Genius

Celebrating A True Norfolk Artistic Genius

01/03/2024     General News

Three times a year, the eyes of the art world (and I do mean world, because online bidding means it’s a truly international audience nowadays) turn on Norfolk, when the most important sale of works of art by East Anglian artists takes place in the county, writes Daniel Smith.

Keys’ East Anglian Art sales have become a must-attend event for dealers and collectors.  This shouldn’t surprise us, as the region has produced some of the greatest artists across the years, from the great of the Norwich School such as Crome and Cotman, through turn-of-the-century giants like Constable, Munnings and Seago, right up to contemporary stars such as Maggi Hambling and Colin Self.

These big names are widely known, but among the cognoscenti there are a whole range of other, less famous but nevertheless quintessentially East Anglian artists whose works are much in demand. 

One of these is the north Norfolk painter Jack Cox.  Born in Wells in 1914, Cox was a prolific artist who was still painting on the day before he died, aged 93, in 2007.  Jack enjoyed drawing and painting even as a boy, although as many did, he left school at the age of 14 to work for the family whelk-fishing firm.

During World War Two Jack served in the Royal Navy, based at Scarpa Flow and at Liverpool, working on small motor torpedo boats and minesweepers.  On leave while based at Liverpool, he made several trips to Ireland, where he was delighted to find that he could sell the pictures he was painting of Irish cottages for a few shillings – rendering him instant beer money.

On being demobbed, he returned to Wells and the life of a fisherman, which he enjoyed for a further 50 years.  He also served for 44 years on the town’s lifeboat, and was a regular at the town’s sailing club.  Small surprise, then, that his intimate familiarity with the sea, boats, harbours and clouds of north Norfolk were to play such a big part in his art.

Jack was entirely self-taught, and alongside his love of the sea, inspiration also came from his passion for wildfowling, a hobby which inevitably took him to the marshes and creeks of the region.  His works often depict such creeks, harbours and beaches, alongside the varied bird life of the county.

Popular during his lifetime, Jack Cox’s works have continued to be in demand in the saleroom – but unlike some of the big names, his works remain accessible and affordable to ordinary collectors, with his paintings tending to sell for anything between £150 and £500 (this does of course depend on the work and the bidders in the room on the day).

What is unarguable is that Jack Cox represents the essence of East Anglian art: a Norfolk man who lived his life in the local community, his work reflecting the rugged beauty of his surroundings and the things which shaped his own life.  In other words, the things which make much East Anglian art so sought after right around the globe.

Keys Auctioneers and Valuers first East Anglian Art sale of 2024 takes place on Wednesday 28th March.  Full details at www.keysauctions.co.uk.

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