Jan Cox

1919 - 1980

Died in Antwerp (BE), born in Den Haag (NL).

The painter and graphic artist Jan Cox (1919-1980) studies history and archaeology in Ghent. In 1945, he co-founds the Jeune Peinture Belge group, which renewed the foundations for contemporary art after the Second World War through abstract modernism.

In 1956, Jan Cox moves to Boston, where he is employed as the head of painting, in the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. After artistic wanderings via Rome, he moves back to Antwerp in 1976, where he concentrates fully on painting and graphic art. Together with Fred Bervoets, Walter Goossens and Wilfried Pas, he becomes one of the pivotal artists of the Antwerp gallery De Zwarte Panter. The work of Jan Cox during this period is characterised by careful compositions, with a magical, surreal atmosphere, a gestural capacity and an expressive colour palette, which refers back to the Cobra artists. Cox, however, works in a more controlled fashion – no spontaneous Fauvism but well-considered compositions, with references to ‘classic’ themes such as violence, cruelty and vulnerability. In his last work – which lays at the core of M HKA’s commitment to Cox – he is even more explicitly searching for a way to cope with the atrocities people both experience and cause. This had been an obsession of his since his experience as a young man in the time leading up to the Second World War. In 1980 the artist takes his own life.

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