Raymond Coxon was a painter for over 75 years. He produced diverse and stimulating work, from portraits to landscapes and even church murals, although his loyalty to his own direction sometimes left him apart from fashionable development.
None the less, his paintings have been bought by many distinguished collectors including Maynard Keynes, Sir Michael Sadler, Henry Lamb and Sir Edward Marsh; they also hang in numerous national and provincial collections.
Born in 1896 at Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent, he was the second child of five girls and two boys born to James and Georgina Coxon, who had herself had some art training. Educated locally at Leek High School, Raymond impressed his teachers with his drawing capability.
While serving with the Cavalry in Palestine in the First World War, he took a tiny box of watercolours with him, and whenever he had an opportunity would send miniature-sized work home to his mother.
After the war he studied at Leeds College of Art from 1919 to 1921, where he met and became great friends with Henry Moore. In 1922 Coxon and Moore made their first visit to France and, thanks to an introduction from John Rothenstein, met Maillol and Bonnard.
Later they were best men at each other’s weddings. Coxon married Edna Ginesi, a fellow student at Leeds, who was Leeds-born but of Italian descent; the marriage was to last over 70 years. After Leeds, Coxon went on to study at the Royal College of Art in London (1921-25), under Sir William Rothenstein. He always remembered Rothenstein’s kindness to him and other students both at the college and at the Rothenstein home in Hampstead.
Coxon’s diploma work was a mural after Masaccio’s Expulsion of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, in the Brancacci Chapel in Florence. As a student he had little money but a terrific zest for living, putting drawing-pins in his shoes to spare him the cost of a cobbler and saving the threepenny tram fare by walking from Hammersmith to the Cafe Royal. The threepence saved enabled him to drink coffee all day and talk to “Gin” – his future wife – and other artists.
Coxon used to say to me that this was “pure delight – we could mix with people there, famous or not, feeling that we were treated equally and not like poor relations; devoid of class distinction, it seemed that everybody had some quality.”
In 1927 Raymond and Gin Coxon with Henry Moore and Leon Underwood formed the short-lived British Independent Society, and Coxon’s work was illustrated in “Young British Drawing”, in Drawing and Design. His first one-man exhibition took place the following year with the London Artists Association at the Cooling Galleries. He became a member of the London Group in 1931 and some of his paintings were bought by the Contemporary Art Society.