Colin Campbell Cooper


Colin Campbell Cooper was an American Impressionist painter, perhaps most renowned for his architectural paintings, especially of skyscrapers in New York City, Philadelphia, and Chicago. An avid traveler, he was also known for his paintings of European and Asian landmarks, as well as natural landscapes, portraits, florals, and interiors. In addition to being a painter, he was also a teacher and writer. In 1879, Cooper enrolled in the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia, studying art under realist painter Thomas Eakins for three years. In 1886 he embarked on the first of his many travels to foreign lands, visiting Holland, Belgium, and Brittany. Afterwards, his art education resumed at the Académie Julian in Paris from 1886 to 1890. He also studied at Académie Delécluse and Académie Vitti. His work of this period consisted mostly of landscapes painted in a Barbizon manner. He traveled extensively throughout his life, sketching and painting scenes of Europe, Asia, and the United States.


Cooper was as proficient painting in watercolors as he was in oils. He would often create a small watercolor study before painting a larger work of the same subject in oils. But the smaller watercolors were not mere sketches for his own use; they were finished pieces which he exhibited, sometimes years earlier than the larger corresponding oil paintings that he would ultimately produce. He and his wife were aboard the RMS Carpathia during its rescue mission for the survivors from the sunken RMS Titanic on April 15, 1912. He assisted in the effort, and during the rescue operation, he created several paintings which document the events. The Coopers gave up their ship’s cabin so some of the survivors would have berths to sleep in.

Cooper exhibited in San Francisco’s Panama Pacific International Exposition of 1915, winning the Gold Medal for oil and the Silver Medal for watercolor. While there, he created a series of paintings depicting the exposition’s buildings, including the Palace of Fine Arts. He also participated in the Panama California Exposition in San Diego in 1916. The Coopers spent the winter of 1915-16 in Los Angeles. This time in southern California was undoubtedly a key factor in Cooper’s later decision to move there permanently. After his wife’s death, Cooper moved to Santa Barbara, California in January 1921. Santa Barbara would be his home base for the rest of his life, spending two years in northern Europe and Tunisia. He became Dean of Painting at the Santa Barbara Community School of Arts.

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