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 Colin Campbell Cooper  (1856 - 1937)

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Lived/Active: California/Pennsylvania      Known for: city buildings, street scene, floral and portrait painting, teaching

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Colin Campbell Cooper
from Auction House Records.
Artwork images are copyright of the artist or assignee
This biography from the Archives of AskART:
A resident and distinguished impressionist painter of both the East and West Coasts, Colin Campbell Cooper earned an international reputation with his depictions of landscapes, florals, portraits, gardens, interiors and figures.  He was especially noted for street scenes and skyscrapers of New York and Philadelphia, and his impressionist* palette was inspired by Childe Hassam, whom he met in New York beginning in the 1890s.

In the later part of his life, he focused on West Coast subject matter and espoused The California Style* of watercolor painting, a bold, aggressive new oil-painting look to a medium that had traditionally been used more modestly.

He was born in Philadelphia to an upper class family where the father was a surgeon, and he, the son, was encouraged by his educated family to pursue art.  He was also inspired by the art he saw at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition*.  He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy* of the Fine Arts with Thomas Eakins and in Paris at the Academies Julian*, Vitti, and Delecluse*.  During that time, he traveled throughout Europe and painted picturesque architectural scenes, which gained him widespread recognition.  Sadly many of these paintings were lost in a fire of 1896.

From 1895 to 1898, he was instructor of watercolor at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia and then moved to New York City from where he and his artist wife, Emma Lampert, traveled throughout the world in search of subject matter.  On a European trip in 1912, they sailed on the Carpathia and became part of the rescue operation of the sinking Titanic, an experience that Cooper depicted in a painting,  View of Steamship Carpathia passing along the edge of the ice flow after recuing survivors of the Titanic (1912).

Of this event it was written by an historian that Carpathia, built 1902, "was sailing from New York City to Rijeka on the night of Sunday, 14 April 1912.  Among her passengers were renowned American painters Colin Campbell Cooper and his wife Emma, journalist Lewis P. Skidmore, photographer Dr. Francis H. Blackmarr and Charles H. Marshall, whose three nieces were traveling aboard the Titanic.  . . .At 4 o'clock in the morning Carpathia arrived at the scene after working her way through dangerous ice fields.  Carpathia was able to save 705 people, all that survived the sinking of TitanicCarpathia, outbound for the Mediterranean prior to the distress call, ferried the survivors to New York."  (

The Coopers first went to California in 1915, spending the winter in Los Angeles and in 1921, settled in Santa Barbara, where he served as Dean of Painting at the Santa Barbara Community School of the Arts*.

He was a member of numerous associations including the California Art Club*, Salmagundi Club*, and the National Academy of Design*.  His work is in many museums including the Cincinnati Art Museum, the St. Louis Museum, and the Oakland Museum.

Cooper died in Santa Barbara.

Edan Hughes, Artists in California, 1786-1940
Gordon McClelland and Jay Last, California Watercolors
Wikipedia: Steamship Carpathia

* For more in-depth information about these terms and others, see Glossary

Biography from Charleston Renaissance Gallery:
Best known as an impressionist painter of New York City skyscrapers and street scenes in the first decades of the twentieth century, Colin Campbell Cooper was an established artist of international renown when he traveled south in 1914 through Annapolis, Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah. During that trip, he painted a view of Charleston's St. Philip's church and cemetery, bathed in a pale, iridescent atmosphere of fog and light.

Cooper was born in Philadelphia, the son of a cultured doctor and his wife, an amateur watercolorist.  His interest in art was fueled by the landmark Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876.  From 1879 to 1881, Cooper studied under Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.  He then established a studio in the city and launched his prolific career and extensive travels, which would include, over time, the American West, Europe, and India.  Cooper went abroad to Holland in 1886, before moving to Paris in 1889 for further education at the academies Julien, Delacluse, and Viti.  He met his wife, the painter Emma Lambert, at an art colony in Laren.

Cooper remained based in Philadelphia until 1904, when he established a New York studio.  Working in both watercolors and oils, Cooper became highly accomplished in the mainstream traditional art world.  He showed his architectural and travel views regularly in the major American and French exhibitions and museum annuals, including Paris Salons, Pennsylvania Academy, Philadelphia and New York Water Color Societies, National Academy of Design, Carnegie International, Corocoran, and Panama-Pacific International Exposition, among many others.

In the early twentieth century, Cooper largely focused his lavish impressionist vision on the growing urban scene in Manhattan, while also creating important views of Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and other cities.  He became one of the pioneers of American impressionism in the architectural landscape genre and created a legacy of American city views during an era of rapid modernist growth.

This essay is copyrighted by the Charleston Renaissance Gallery and may not be reproduced or transmitted without written permission from the Hicklin Galleries, LLC.

Biography from Newman Galleries:
Colin Campbell Cooper was an internationally successful painter, known for his impressionistic street scenes, landscapes, and architectural subjects.  Born in Philadelphia in 1856, he studied under Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts.

Cooper made the first of many trips to Europe in 1885.  He studied at the Academie Julien and the Ecole Delecluse in Paris.  Traveling to Belgium, Holland, and France, he painted picturesque scenes of European architectural treasures. Th ese paintings gained him worldwide recognition, and he continued to travel in search of unusual landscape and architectural subjects throughout his career.

Cooper and his first wife, Emma Lampert, were aboard the RMS Carpathian and assisted with the rescue of survivors from the Titanic. Several of his paintings document the rescue.

Emma died in 1920, and Cooper moved to Santa Barbara, CA.  In 1921, after spending time in Philadelphia and abroad, Cooper settled in California and became Dean of Painting at the Santa Barbara School for the Arts.  He married his second wife, Marie Frehsee, in 1927.

Cooper was a member of the American Federation of Arts, the American Water Color Society, the National Academy of Design, the New York National Arts Club, the New York Society of Painters, the New York Water Color Club, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Philadelphia Art Club, and the Philadelphia Water Color Club.

His works are in the collections of the Art Club of Philadelphia, the Boston Art Club, the Cincinnati Art Museum, the Dallas Art Association, the Lotos Club in New York City, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the Reading Museum, and the St. Louis Museum of Fine Arts.

The artist died in 1937.

Biography from Blake Benton Fine Art, Artists C - F:
Colin Campbell Cooper, painter, teacher, writer, lecturer, watercolorist and impressionist was born in Philadelphia, P.A. in 1856.  His father, a wealthy surgeon, encouraged his son to pursue his talent in art.  He was also inspired by the art he saw at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition.  He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts with Thomas Eakins, the Academies Julian in Paris with Vitti, and Delecluse and additionally at other art schools in Paris.  He spent much time in Europe painting figure and architectural subjects, many of these paintings were lost in a fire of 1896.  Architecture and street scenes became his specialty.

Mr. Cooper's notable achievement was his long series of canvases depicting the picturesque charm of the modern sky-scraper, particularly those of New York and Philadelphia; he began this work in 1902.  It was said of these works, "He saw beauty, sublimity and grandeur in the structures that his average contemporary was wont to call monstrosities."  He was also known for painting genre, portraits, Italy, Spain, interiors, harbors, churches, still lifes and flowers.

Colin Cooper was also known for the unique way that he handled watercolor on canvas, he did this "so cleverly that his water-colors can scarcely be distinguished from oils."  This style of painting was later called "The California Style" of watercolor painting.  Very few, if any, artists at the time were employing this technique in the manner that Cooper was.  Speaking of the success that Cooper had in rendering his city scenes, a writer for the Brush and Palette (1872) magazine wrote "that Cooper has the natural gift of seeing the beauty of what to most people are prosaic structures, and the patience and persistence to perfect his delineation of street and building, is the secret of his success as an architectural painter."

The success that Cooper had in rendering these scenes was also due in part to the influence that the impressionist painter Frederick Childe Hassam had on him.  He met Hassam in New York in the beginning of the 1890s and was influenced by the delicate handling and atmospheric qualities conveyed by Hassam's canvases.

From 1895 to 1898, Cooper was instructor of watercolor at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, and then moved to New York City from where he and his artist wife Emma Lampert traveled throughout the world in search of subject matter.  One art critic stated: "Mr. Cooper recently returned from the Far East and has exhibited Indian paintings in New York.  Among his architectural works which are said to possess such charm as to make them dreams of beauty are: Taj Mahal, Agra, White Mosque, Bombey, and Maharajah's Palace, Udaipor (Venice of India).

The Coopers first went to California in 1915, spending the winter in Los Angeles, and in 1921, settled in Santa Barbara, where he served as Dean of Painting at the Santa Barbara Community School of Arts.  He also painted in Taos, New Mexico, and in Arizona including the Superstition Mountains east of Phoenix.

Cooper was a member of many leading art clubs in this country.  He was elected an associate member of the National Academy of Design in 1908, and elected to full status as an Academician to the National Academy of Design in 1912.  Additionally he was a member of the New York Watercolor Club; Art Club of Philadelphia; Philadelphia Watercolor Society; American Watercolor Society; Fellowship Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Art; Lotus Club; National Arts Club and American Federation of Arts and others.

He won numerous awards including: Wm. T. Evans prize, American Watercolor Society, 1903, 1910; gold medal for oil and silver medal for watercolor, Pan Am Pacific Expo., San Francisco, 1915; Hudnut prize, New York Watercolor Club, 1918, and others.

His work can be found in many important museum collections throughout the world. 

Colin Campbell Cooper passed away in Santa Barbara, California on November 6, 1937.

** If you discover credit omissions or have additional information to add, please let us know at

Colin Cooper is also mentioned in these AskART essays:
The California Art Club
Impressionists Pre 1940
San Francisco Panama-Pacific Exhibition 1915
Taos Pre 1940
California Painters

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