Born in Birmingham, David Cox studied under the city’s master painter Joseph Barber. After a period of apprenticeship with a miniature painter named Fieldler, Cox perfected his independent style and worked as a scenery painter at the Birmingham Theatre Royal and the Aisley Theatre. In 1804 Cox moved to London where he received watercolour lessons from John Varley. He began exhibiting at the Royal Academy in 1805 and from 1809 until its demise in 1812 he was involved with the Associated Artists in Water-Colours, of which he became president in 1810. In 1812 he was made an associate of The Society of Painters in Watercolour. In 1813 he was elected to become a member of the Old Watercolour Society, he continued to exhibit with this group every year (excluding 1815 and 1817) until his death in 1859.
Cox’s work has fascinated art historians for many years, as it appears to fit within many differing movements. His love of nature and his simplistic and realistic depictions imply him to be a follower of the 17/18th C. Romantic and Enlightenment movements. However it has been suggested that his works were well before their time and should have belonged to the aesthetic culture of the late 19th C. His work is though to evoke what would become known as the ‘sensationism’ usually connected with the British Aestheticism movement. This can be seen in his work both as a teacher and an exhibiting artist.