COLIN CAMPBELL COOPER 
American (1856-1937) 
"New York From Brooklyn," c. 1922 
oil on
board, signed "Colin Campbell Cooper" lower right. 
25 x 30 inches

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In a 2006 exhibition  East Coast / West Coast and Beyond, Colin Campbell Cooper American Impressionist, Cooper is celebrated for his two greatest achievements as an artist: his prominence in the Santa Barbara Impressionist community and his mastery of painting the “skyscraper city,” New York.

 

Cooper was born in Philadelphia in 1856. In 1878 he joined the Philadelphia Sketch Club. In 1879, he exhibited with the Philadelphia Society of Artists and joined the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA). At PAFA, he studied under Thomas Eakins for three years. In 1881, Cooper set up his own shop on Chestnut Street in Philadelphia.

 

From 1881-1902, Cooper travelled extensively. In 1886, he travelled abroad, painting extensively in Europe. He studied at the Academie Julian in Paris, painted in Brittany and copied Old Masters at the Prado. He exhibited at the Paris Salon in 1890 and 1901.

 

In 1897, Cooper exhibited The Pageant at Bruges in New York at the exhibition of the Society of American Artists. The painting clearly illustrates Cooper’s talent for architectural subjects. From 1902-1903 he painted a series of views of the Wells Cathedral in England, exhibiting the series at PAFA in 1903. It was at this time in the early 20th century when New York City was growing by leaps and bounds that Cooper begin to paint the “skyscraper city.”

 

Art historian, Bill Gerdts, notes “Cooper identified the year 1902 as the start of his fascination with this theme; returning from abroad in December, he was immediately impressed by the soaring skyline of the modern city, and within a year critics were already writing of his “Skyscraper Series.” (p. 21)

 

In 1904, Cooper and his wife moved to New York into the studio building on West 57th Street. He remained there until he moved to California in 1921. Critics praised Cooper as “the first artist to discover the artistic possibilities, the canyon like beauty, of streets of modern skyscrapers.” (p. 25)


 

In the present lot, New York from Brooklyn, Cooper depicts the view of lower Manhattan from Brooklyn. He exquisitely captured the piers of Brooklyn as they were operating as the major gateway into the East Coast, as well as the ultimate collection of skyscrapers, most of which had only recently been completed.  The era is exceptionally rendered by the bustling figures of the sightseers and dockworkers in the foreground.

 

Cooper, in his characteristic style, exemplified the golden light shining down on the buildings and the contacting deep purple shadows that are cast between them. The steam from the ships and the docks is almost palpable.  

 

New York from Brooklyn is a quintessential example of Cooper’s skyline series and of the development in New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century.

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