David Cox, the son of a blacksmith, was born in Birmingham (29th April 1783) and was apprenticed to become a miniature painter. Following his employers death he moved on to become a scenery painter in Birmingham and Leicester Theatres. In 1803 he moved to London to work on scenery at Astley's Theatre. He earned extra money teaching drawing and selling a few sketches. His teaching career slowly took off and by 1805 he had started regularly exhibiting at the Royal Academy. In the same year he started teaching sketching on activity holidays for wealthy students. These teaching trips, first to Wales then to various parts of Great Britain, inspired him, helping him become a distinguished landscape painter, originating a school of landscape painting which was purely English.
He wrote several books and in 1810 was elected President of the Associated Artists in Water Colour, the first of several artistic appointments. Cox moved to Hereford in 1815 to teach drawing at a ladies college and local grammar schools. He returned to London in 1827. He retired to Harbourne Heath (near Birmingham), in 1844 where he remained until he died (7th June 1859).