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Colin Campbell Cooper was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 8, 1856 into an upper class family. Having a mother who enjoyed painting in watercolors and a father who was a lover of literature and music, at a young age, Cooper was encouraged by his family to pursue a career in the arts. He was further motivated by the art exhibition at the Philadelphia Exposition of 1876.  At 23, Cooper enrolled at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts in Philadelphia and received lessons under artist Thomas Eatkins. In 1886, he traveled to Holland, Belgium, and France and studied at the Academies Julian, Delecluse, and Viti. He became a strong believer of plein air painting and preferred to paint outdoors. He eventually moved back to Philadelphia and conducted classes at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia on watercolors from 1895-1898. He married fellow artist Emma Lampert in 1897.  He continued to paint and exhibit his works while teaching, but a fire at the Hazeltine Galleries, Philadelphia in 1896 destroyed much of Cooper’s earlier works.

Eventually, Cooper moved to New York and in 1902 began a series of paintings on architectural themes, particularly skyscrapers, which he was most famous for. Many of his skyscraper paintings revolve around metropolitan cities including New York City, Chicago, and his hometown Philadelphia.  An inveterate traveler, he made many trips to Europe, India from 1913-1914, and throughout the United States in search of subject matter.  He first came to California to attend the Panama-Pacific International Exposition and spent the winter of 1915-1916 in Los Angeles.  Hi trips were productive and resulted in paintings of architecture of both the San Francisco and San Diego fair and exposition.  From 1917-1919 Cooper’s paintings went through a transition from a more urban atmosphere to a more rural and nostalgic architectural and figurative themes in his paintings. After his wife Emma’s death in 1921, he settled in Santa Barbara where he taught painting and became the Dean at the School of Painting at the Santa Barbara School for the Arts. He remarried in 1927 to Marie Frehsee. The mid-1920s was also a period in which Cooper became a prolific playwright and author. He wrote many plays which were later reprised by the local theater companies in Pasadena, Redlands, and Santa Fe in the 1920s and 1930s. He was also very involved in the community and founded a Santa Barbara theater called The Strollers in which he staged several of his plays. In the 1930s, he wrote an autobiography titled In These Old Days In These Old Days and other novels and illustrated books.

Cooper died on November 6, 1937 in Santa Barbara.  An Impressionist, his style reflects the influence of Monet.  Although he is best known for his landscapes with architectural themes, he also painted florals, portraits, gardens, interiors, and figures.

Member: American Federation of Arts; American Watercolor Society; California Art Club; Lotus Club; National Academy of Design; National Arts Club; New York Society of Painters; New York Watercolor Club; Philadelphia Watercolor Club; Salmagundi Club; Santa Barbara Art Club; San Diego Art Guild.

Exhibited: Atlanta Exposition, Georgia, 1895; American Watercolor Society, New York, 1903; Louisiana Purchase Exposition, St. Louis, Missouri, 1904; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 1904, 1919; Philadelphia Art Club, Pennsylvania, 1905; Exposition International, Buenos Aires, Brazil, 1910; New York Watercolor Club, New York, 1911; Panama-Pacific International Exposition, 1915.

Works held: Boston Art Club, Massachusetts; Cincinnati Art Museum, Ohio; Dallas Art Association, Texas; Fleischer Museum, Scottsdale, Arizona; Irvine Museum, California; Lotus Club, New York; Luxembourg Museum, Belgium; Memorial Art Gallery, Rochester, New York; National Arts Club, New York; Oakland Museum of California; Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Pennsylvania; San Diego Museum of Art, California; St. Louis Art Museum, Missouri.