Elford Bradley (E.B.) Cox (1914-2003) is widely acknowledged as Canada’s foremost sculptor in stone. His sculpture has been described as the great bridge between the native art of Canada and the modern art of the twentieth century.
Cox’s career spanned more than a half century. One guidebook says that “Cox has more sculpture on view in Toronto’s public places than any other single artist.” His monumental works - in stone, metal, wood and glass - can be seen by the public at schools, universities, government buildings, churches, libraries, banks, hotels, and parks across Toronto, and are in public places and private collections across Canada and the US.
E.B. Cox also has more works of art at Exhibition Place than any other artist. His three massive limestone bears, along with “Youth and the Environment,” are on display near the Queen Elizabeth Building. His colossal “tour de force” - the Garden of the Greek Gods - was installed at Exhibition Place in 1979, for permanent display on the south lawn of the Horticulture Building.
Cox was born in Botha, Alberta in 1914. He studied languages at the University of Toronto, supporting himself by selling small wooden carvings. It was here that he met Professor Barker Fairley, through whom he became acquainted with many other artists, including members of the Group of Seven. (Later, Cox was given the honour of carving their gravestones.)
From 1939 to 1950, Cox taught French and German at Upper Canada College (UCC). When World War II broke out, he enlisted in the Intelligence Corps, serving as a translator for three years before returning to UCC. In 1948, Cox married Elizabeth (Betty) Campbell with whom he had two daughters. In the 1950s, he gave up his teaching career and became a full-time artist.
Cox soon became active in Toronto’s gallery and art show scene, and quickly earned recognition for his work. A member of both the Ontario Society of Artists and the Sculptors Society of Canada, Cox had the first one-man show at McMichael’s Gallery in Kleinburg, Ontario. He was a self-taught artist and prided himself on achieving artistic and commercial success without ever taking a penny in government grants.
Cox was an inventor and teacher, as well as an artist. He pioneered the use of the compressed-air chisel to carve stone, a technique that enabled him to single-handedly create large-scale installations. An excellent mentor, Cox helped many younger artists as they started their careers.
He also created many hundreds of smaller sculptures that he sold to private collectors. He claimed to have invented “coffee table sculpture” - smaller pieces that were affordable by ordinary art-lovers, not just wealthy collectors, and could be displayed in the home. He was the “artist in residence” at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair for a couple of years, carving figures in butter while the public observed.
E.B. Cox was not only one of Canada’s finest artists. He was also a very special man, and will be fondly remembered by his students, as well as his collectors, as they pass down their memories - along with their cherished Cox sculptures - to the next generation.
Biography provided by Kathy Sutton
E. B. Cox with Centaur, one of the Greek Gods