In my former life, I used to sell art. Predominantly it was Canadian art from all periods. Today I am selling for one of my clients a very nice early watercolour of the Three Sisters near Canmore. It probably dates from around 1910, maybe as late as 1920. It a modest size, image is approximately 10″ x 15″ (or 25 x 38cm) and from what is visible, it appears to be professionally framed, although I have not taken it apart to confirm.
It was painted by an artist called Alfred Arthur (A.A.) Cox, FRIBA [1873-1944]. The initials indicate that he was a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects. According to the label affixed to the back he was living in Vancouver when this was executed.
This delicate watercolour is painted in the British landscape tradition of the C.P. Rail artists, with an awareness of more recent art movements from around the turn of the century, such as impressionism. The Glenbow Museum did a show of the C.P. Rail artists’ work and published an award-winning book on them a number of years ago. It is through these artists that our understanding of the Canadian Rocky Mountain landscapes were first brought to a wider audience in the late 1800s, both in Canada and overseas.
In my research I could find no written biography of A.A. Cox. So without any further ado here is one that I have prepared.
A.A. Cox was probably well-connected with the Anglo community in Montreal. While in Montreal he designed or worked on parts of a number of churches connected to the Anglican tradition – most notably:
- The Church of St. John the Evangelist, Montreal;
- St. James the Apostle, Montreal;
- The Sunday School and Parish Hall for Christ Church Cathedral, Ottawa;
- St. Matthew’s Anglican, Quebec City (which has been tastefully converted into a library);
- St. Peter’s Anglican, Sherbrooke and many others.
In addition to this he designed buildings on campus at Bishop’s University, Lennoxville and the former “finishing school” Dunham Ladies College. He also did a number of bank buildings for the Eastern Townships Bank and the Bank of British North America in various locations around Quebec, and for the same banking institutions and other banks after 1910 in BC.
He also designed major alterations and improvements to the office and club of the Canadian Society of Civil Engineering in Montreal.
We know with certainty that A. A. Cox was active in Vancouver in the early 1900s and probably had enough work lined up to precipitate his move west.
His connections in Montreal served him well when he moved to Vancouver, as he designed the local Canadian Pacific Railway treasurer, William Ferriman Salsbury’s Mission style mansion located at 1790 Angus Drive in Shaughnessey Heights, Vancouver. He also was to design mansions for other prominent individuals such as the Hon. Bowser’s (was this the former BC Attorney-General and later Premier in 1915/1916?) mansion on Rockland Avenue in Victoria.
He is listed as the architect of record for the Carter Cotton Building in Vancouver. It was completed in 1908 and is located at 198 West Hastings Street. He also did other office towers and commercial buildings around the same time such as the Canada Life Building.
Originally the Carter Cotton Building was used as the offices of the Vancouver Daily News Advertiser which was owned by the extremely interesting Carter Cotton who used this newspaper as a platform to get into politics. This newspaper later was taken over by the Vancouver Province where the building later served as the Province’s offices.
As stated previously, he also continued his banking architectural commissions, but expanded his practice to include a number of commissions for the Vancouver General Hospital, the Girl’s Industrial School and the Oakalla Prison at Deer Lake, near Burnaby. He closed out the architectural part of his career in Port Rupert where he designed a movie theatre and the Masonic Temple.
Whether he lived out the rest of his life in the lower BC mainland or moved elsewhere for the remainder of his life is unknown at this time.
Like many architects, he had an interest in art and/or painting, but like many other architects, probably never made much work as much of his creative thought was used in designing buildings.
This work is for sale on behalf of my client. For more information click here.