Skip to main content

Allyn Cox papers, 1856-1982

Allyn Cox papers, 1856-1982

Cox, Allyn, 1896-1982

Muralist, Painter

Collection Information

Size: 10.9 linear feet

Summary: The papers of New York, New York, and Washington, D.C. painter and muralist Allyn Cox measure 10.9 linear feet and date from 1856-1982. The collection documents Cox's personal and professional life through biographical material, family and general correspondence, writings and notes, research material, printed material, sketchbooks and loose sketches, and photographs. Photographs are of Cox at work, the Cox family, including Kenyon and Louise Cox, Cox's friends and colleagues, events, and Cox's artwork.

Biographical/Historical Note

New York, New York and Washington, D.C. painter and muralist, Allyn Cox (1896-1982), was born in New York City to artists Kenyon and Louise Cox. Cox's father Kenyon was a painter, illustrator, writer, and teacher in New York City.

Provenance

The bulk of the Allyn Cox papers was donated in 1977 and 1983 by the Estate of Allyn Cox, Stephen M. Pulsifer, Exectuor, including material that had been loaned for microfiliming in 1969. Two mural sketches were donated by the Essex County Greenbelt Association in 1984.

Related Materials

Funding

Funding for the processing of this collection was provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.

A Finding Aid to the Allyn Cox Papers, 1856-1982
AAA.coxally
Author
Finding aid prepared by Stephanie Ashley
Biographical/Historical note
New York, N.Y. and Washington, D.C. painter and muralist, Allyn Cox (1896-1982), was born in New York City to artists Kenyon and Louise Cox. Cox first trained as his father’s assistant, serving as an apprentice to Kenyon Cox during the painting of the murals at the Wisconsin State Capitol, circa 1912. He attended the National Academy of Design from 1910-1915, and the Art Student’s League with George Bridgman in 1915. In 1916 he was awarded the Prix de Rome and subsequently studied at the American Academy in Rome for 2 years before returning to New York City to begin a career in mural painting.
Cox completed numerous murals and decorative paintings for private residences, businesses, churches, and public buildings. Some of his most famous commissions included murals for the Royal Arch Room and Memorial Hall of the George Washington Masonic National Memorial in Alexandria, Virginia; the Law School at the University of Virginia, Charlottesville; and the William A. Clark Memorial Library at the University of California, Los Angeles; panels for the National City Bank, the Continental Bank, and the Guaranty Trust Company in New York; and glass mosaics and inlaid stone maps for the United States Military Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg.
Cox is best known for his work in the United States Capitol, beginning in 1952 when he undertook a congressional commission to restore and complete the murals in in the Capitol rotunda begun by Constantino Brumidi and Filipo Costaggini in 1878. Over the course of the next two decades Cox, now residing in Washington, D.C., restored the Frieze of American History and the Apotheosis of Washington in the Rotunda, and designed murals for three first-floor corridors in the Capitol's House wing, now known as the Cox Corridors. Assisted by Cliff Young, Cox completed painting for two of these corridors before his death. In 1958 Cox also painted a portrait of Henry Clay for the Senate Reception Room and in 1975 completed a mural depicting the 1969 moon landing in the Brumidi Corridor.
Cox taught at the Art Students League in 1940 and 1941, and was active in professional organizations throughout his career. He served as President of the American Artists Professional League and the National Society of Mural Painters, and Vice President of both the Fine Arts Federation and the New York Architectural League. He was a member of the board of the New York Municipal Art Society and served on the the New York City Art Commission.
Cox retired in March 1982 at the age of 86 and died the following September.
Arrangement note
The collection is arranged as 7 series. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and are closed to researchers.
Series 1: Biographical Material, 1916-1982 (0.33 linear feet; Boxes 1, 12)
Series 2: Correspondence, 1878-1982 (6.74 linear feet; Boxes 1-7, 12)
Series 3: Writings and Notes, 1919-1982 (0.58 linear feet; Boxes 7-8)
Series 4: Research Files, circa 1950s-circa 1970s (0.25 linear feet; Box 8)
Series 5: Printed Material, 1920s-1982 (0.5 linear feet; Boxes 8-9)
Series 6: Sketchbooks and Sketches, 1873-circa 1978 (0.25 linear feet; Box 9, OVs 13-14)
Series 7: Photographs, 1856-circa 1980 (2.25 linear feet; Boxes 9-12, OV 13)
Scope and Contents note
The papers of New York, N.Y., and Washington, D.C. painter and muralist Allyn Cox measure 10.9 linear feet and date from 1856-1982. The collection documents Cox's personal and professional life through biographical material, family and general correspondence, writings and notes, research material, printed material, sketchbooks and loose sketches, and photographs. Photographs are of Cox at work, the Cox family, including Kenyon and Louise Cox, Cox's friends and colleagues, events, and Cox's artwork.
Biographical material includes family birth, death, and marriage certificates, and passports for Cox and his wife Ethel, whom he married in 1927; professional membership cards, awards and certificates; records related to sales of furnishings from the Cox family home in Essex, Massachusetts; and an untranscribed interview of Cox by Tony Janak of NBC TV.
Cox's family correspondence is primarily with his mother, Louise Cox. Also found is correspondence with Cox's sister, Caroline Cox Lansing, and his brother Leonard Cox and Leonard's wife, Sylvia, and letters from Ethel Cox to her mother. Additional correspondence relating to the disposition of Kenyon Cox''s artwork and archives to various institutions, can also be found here.
General correspondence documents Cox's career and professional relationships with artists and architects, including John Barrington Bayley, Fabrizio Cassio, Arthur Conrad, Roscoe DeWitt, Stuart Frost, John Harbeson, Francis Keally, Adrian Lamb, Edward Laning, Charles Downing Lay, Deane Keller, Philip Trammell Shutze, and Cliff Young; art institutions and organizations including the Art Commission of the City of New York, the Art Students League, Dumbarton Oaks, the National Society of Mural Painters, and the Smithsonian Institution; federal, state and local government agencies including the American Battle Monuments Commission, the Architect of the Capitol, and the General Grant National Memorial; members of Congress including founder of the United States Capitol Historical Society, Representative Fred Schwengel; and private social clubs in which Cox was active, including the Century Association, the Cosmopolitan Club and the Cosmos Club. Correspondence documents Cox's most well known commissions including work for the George Washington Masonic National Memorial and the United States Capitol, as well as work for many private clients including banks and residences.
Also found are typescripts, manuscripts and notes for Cox's lectures, as well as Ethel Cox's diary from 1923-1936 and her diary excerpt from 1955. Ten folders of research files, consisting primarily of clippings, comprise Cox's source material. Additional printed material provides scattered documentation of Cox's career through announcements and catalogs, and magazine and newspaper articles written by him or about his work. Also found is one folder of clippings about Kenyon Cox.
Four sketchbooks and circa twenty-two loose animal, figure, architectural and landscape sketches comprise Cox's artwork, in addition to two 1943 sketches Cox entered into a War Department mural competition. Also found is an 1873 sketchbook of Kenyon Cox, with sketches of people and scenes in Ohio.
Photographs are of Cox from childhood to the 1980s; his family, including parents, siblings, and grandparents; friends including Philip Trammell Shutze and Warner Bishop; family residences; artist models; events; and artwork, including many of Cox's commissions. In addition to photographic prints, slides, and negatives, the series includes vintage formats such as an ambrotype, 8 tintypes, 2 cyanotypes, and a platinum print. Of particular note are circa 16 photos of Kenyon Cox, one taken by Pirie MacDonald and three of him teaching a class at the Art Students League, and a series of circa 1906 photos taken in a garden, of Louise and Kenyon Cox with their children and others. Also found are 10 glass plate negatives of artwork by Cox.
Provenance
The bulk of the Allyn Cox papers was donated in 1977 and 1983 by the Estate of Allyn Cox, Stephen M. Pulsifer, Exectuor, including material that had been loaned for microfiliming in 1969. Two mural sketches were donated by the Essex County Greenbelt Association in 1984.
Related Archival Materials note
Also found in the Archives of American Art are the Allyn Cox papers relating to U.S. Capitol murals, 1970-1974, donated by the Committee on House Administration, via Cindy Szady in 1981. Papers include a resume; a cost estimate by Cox for designing and executing mural decorations in the U.S. Capitol, 1970; a letter, 1974, from the Office of the Architect of the Capitol to the Capitol Historical Society enclosing photocopies of printed material pertinent to the unveiling and dedication of the Capitol rotunda frieze in 1954; miscellaneous printed material, 1971-1974; and 15 photographs of the murals in the Capitol.
Processing Information note
The collection was processed and a finding aid prepared by Stephanie Ashley in 2015 with funding provided by the Terra Foundation for American Art.
Glass plate negatives were re-housed in 2015 with a grant provided by the Smithsonian Collections Care and Preservation Fund.

Restrictions on Access

Use of original papers requires an appointment and is limited to the Archives' Washington, D.C. Research Center. Contact Reference Services for more information. Glass plate negatives are housed separately and are closed to researchers. Use of archival audiovisual recordings with no duplicate access copy requires advance notice.

How to Cite This Collection

Allyn Cox papers, 1856-1982. Archives of American Art, Smithsonian Institution.

  • No downloads available