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Jan Cox (1919 - 1980)

Founding member of the group ‘Jeune Peinture Belge’ in 1945, Jan Cox, left Brussels for the United States to fulfil his dreams. He exhibited in New York at Curt Valentine’s and then Catherine Viviano’s. From 1956 onwards, after a stay in Rome, he worked as Head of the Painting Department of the School of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, where he realized his first important painting cycle based on the myth of Orpheus. (Myth of Orpheus, cycle of eight paintings, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, 1959-60). The New York Art scene, who considered nothing important could happen outside New York, neglected this important contribution to painting. Figuration and the use of mythological themes was forebode of the break with modernism by a younger generation of painters in the 80’s.  In 1974 Jan Cox returned to Belgium and produced his monumental painting cycle based on Homer’s Iliad. (Iliad, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels, 1976). This monumental series of forty five large paintings was both his catharsis of violence and disappointment he had previously experienced in modern society and the purging of his haunting memories of the Second World War. His career continued with works on the subjects of Mozart’s ‘Magic Flute’ and the ‘Martyrdom of Christ’ until his death in 1980. Jan Cox wanted art to be intelligent. Art that formulates fundamental questions.

The Rain of Blood, Iliad Series, acrylic on canvas, 130 x 180 cm. MinetaHouse collection, Brussels.

Iliad 30/45 -  The mortal son of the Gods died. As a gesture of morning the god gets it rain blood.


Jan Cox’s exhibition of the ‘Iliad’ at the Royal Museum of Fine Art Brussels in 1976 was groundbreaking for the future of Post-Modern Art. The monumental series of 45 paintings realized in1975 combined the formal innovation of modernism with art history. A pictorial language that conjures up the human experience of war within a formal lyrical abstraction.

COX MC 088.jpg

Judith and Holofernes, Boston 1962,oil on canvas, 153 x 153 cm. – Exhibited  Jan Cox, living one’s art, Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Antwerp, 2008  - monography reproduced p. 255. Mineta Collection Ref. MC 088.

Historic inconsistencies of the biblical story (Seduce and murder your enemy) have contributed to the enduring relevance and the ever-contemporary feel of the story.  Cox used it to alert for woman’s hidden emotional dangers. ‘There is a Judith in every woman, …do not hear, see and speak evil’

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