Paul Cox’s fluid, immediate draughtsmanship and vibrant colour make him one of the most enjoyable and versatile of contemporary illustrators. Well known for his warm and witty contributions to books and magazines, he has ranged in his work as a designer between stamps and stage sets. Paul Cox was born in London on 31 July 1957, the eldest of three children of the architect Oliver Cox CBE. He was educated at Port Regis, Shaftesbury, Dorset, and Stanbridge Earls School, Romsey, Hampshire, and studied illustration at Camberwell School of Art (under Linda Kitson, 1975-79) and the Royal College of Art (1979-82). While there, he won second prize in the Folio Society’s annual competition, for illustrations to Kingsley Amis’s Lucky Jim (though these were not published).
Since his graduation in 1982, Paul has worked as a freelance illustrator and painter, involving himself in an extraordinary number and variety of projects. Readers of newspapers and magazines on both sides of the Atlantic will instantly recognise his wonderfully fresh images from the Daily Telegraph, Country Life, The Spectator, The Sunday Times Magazine, Punch, The Times, Blueprint Magazine, Vanity Fair and Esquire (whose ‘Smart Money’ section featured Cox’s work for over two years).
His career as a book illustrator has been equally diverse, titles ranging from Tim Heald’s Honourable Estates (1992) to Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows (1993).
Throughout his career, Paul has enjoyed a close relationship with the Folio Society. It began with editions of Somerville and Ross’s Experience of an Irish RM (1984) and Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat (1992) and Three Men on a Bummel (1998), as well as numerous works by P G Wodehouse: Leave it to Psmith (1989), eleven of the ‘Jeeves and Wooster’ series of novels, including Thank You, Jeeves (1996), and five of the Blandings novels (2004). In 2006, the Folio Society commissioned him to illustrate a 50th anniversary version of Gerald Durrell’s classic, My Family and other Animals.
For a new edition of Three Men on the Bummel, Paul he has made a fresh cover design and added eight illustrations to those originally commissioned for the Readers Digest edition of 1998. These new works accompany the Folio’s republication of Paul’s interpretations of Three Men in a Boat and Gerald Durrell’s My Family and Other Animals, launched in 2017. His illustrated edition of Lord Peter Views the Body by Dorothy L Sayers, again for the Folio Society, was also published in 2017.
For Penguin Books, Paul provided book jackets for all of David Lodge’s novels. Other large series of covers were previously done for Simon Raven’s Alms for Oblivion and all Patricia Wentworth’s ‘Miss Silver’ stories.
His unique partnership with the author Tim Heald has led to many interesting assignments, collaborating on books and journalistic projects for both the Daily Telegraph and Punch.
Other commissions have included stamp designs for the Royal Mail, set designs for the 50th anniversary production of the musical, Salad Days, a mural for the lecture hall at the Royal College of Surgeons, and a set of 15 very large watercolours for the St Charles Hospital, Ladbroke Grove, London.
Chris Beetles Gallery has mounted exhibitions of his work in 1989 and 1993, and a major retrospective in 2001. In 2006, the drawings from My Family and Other Animals, were exhibited in two highly successful shows at the Durrell Wildlife Foundation in Jersey and Chris Beetles Gallery in November 2006.
A further major retrospective exhibition of Paul's work, 'A Journey Through His Art', was held at Chris Beetles Gallery in 2013, and included views of Rome, made in 2011 on his first ever visit to the eternal city, in the company of Chris Beetles.
Continuing to work in the United States, his recent commissions have included a cover illustration about Washington Heights for The New York Times and a large menu design for the Manhattan Penthouse, a celebrated party venue with spectacular views of the city.
Despite his many commissions and travels abroad, Paul is a Londoner at heart. He lived in rural Sussex for a time, but in 2011 was moved to answer the call of the capital and returned to live in Highgate:
"I have always loved London. I mean I think its in my blood, and I recognise, belatedly, perhaps, that it was somewhere I perhaps shouldn’t have left, but I’m glad I had because I appreciate it more."
Other recent commissions have included work for the House of Illustration’s forthcoming auction of ‘First Editions Re-Covered’, for which he has provided new wrap around illustrated book covers for both his particular favourite, Lucky Jim, and Toad of Toad Hall (A A Milne’s dramatisation of The Wind in The Willows).
Paul is currently 'preparing a collection of drawings for a book on London, including work made in the 1980s, showing how things have changed, and finding new and unusual contrasts both social and architectural'. His other latest books include Dorothy L Sayers' Hangman's Holiday and P G Wodehouse's The Clicking of Cuthbert, both published by the Folio Society, and Edward Mullins' In Search of Art, published by Unicorn Press.