Coventry painter produces booklet as tribute to his inspiration - The Coventry Observer

18th Aug, 2022

Coventry painter produces booklet as tribute to his inspiration

A FORMER painter from Coventry has produced a 40 page booklet as a tribute to the little-known artist who inspired his work.

Les Neil was an amateur painter who spent years producing landscape paintings and portraits, whilst admiring the work of Warwickshire artist Herbert Cox.

The 80-year-old first came across Cox’s work in Coventry City Council house where it can still be viewed today.

The former member of Triumph Art Society met Cox’s daughter Cynthia Archer after she advertised his paintings in the paper, and has been collecting them ever since – with a current total of 36 paintings.

And his labour of love saw him gather the few available documents from archives and unlock Cox’s past from his vast collection of paintings – taking him a year to complete

Les explained Cox – who died in 1941 in Lillington – was little heard of despite an impressive collection of paintings depicting rural Warwickshire, medieval streets and the long-gone nooks and crannies of ‘Coventry as it was.’

He added: “His story has been pushed aside since new generations, and no-one knows anything about him or his legacy. I decided to make the leaflet because his story ought to be out there for the people of Coventry.”

Les’ own description of Coventry captures city life before and in between the wars, imagining scenes of bustling shoppers, pedlars and horse and carts along streets that look very different today.

The Coventry resident said he found Cox’s work nostalgic, unlocking memories of a Coventry unknown to most.

Cox began his career as a draughtsman designing silks, curtain patterns and greetings cards.

After attending the School of Art – which is no longer in existence – on Ford Street, the aspiring artist began experimenting with watercolours and venturing out to paint his scenes from ‘life’.

Offers to work on private commissions began pouring in and among the first was for a picture of Holy Trinity Church in Coventry for a postcard.

He was also hired by the then Leamington Borough Council, and Coventry City Council to design commemoration scrolls for important figures in society.

And in 1926 a collection of 56 his pen and ink drawings was sold to Coventry City Council for £150- the equivalent of over £8,000 today.

Local newspapers described Cox’s work as containing a’a depth of love’ for the city and capturing ‘Coventry life in all it’s moods.’

Cox eventually married Margaret Shilton – a writer and illustrator – and moved to Lillington when he became a founding member of Coventry and Warwickshire Society of Artists, still thriving today.

Cox died in 1941 and was buried at St Mary Magdalene parish church in the village, also depicted among his many paintings.

It was not until 2011 when a member of the History Society queried the earmarked ‘artist’s house’ on an early map of Lillington.

Following an investigation into Cox’s life, the house on Manor Road was presented with a blue plaque by former mayor Alan Wilkinson in 2011.

Aside from Les’ own collection, the watercolours are now displayed in the Coventry City Council house, the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum in Coventry and Leamington Art Gallery and Museum.

Visit the Herbert Museum or contact for a copy of the booklet.


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