Colin Campbell Cooper, Jr., (1856-1937) would have celebrated his 153rd birthday this past Sunday. The American impressionist was described by a critic as "understand[ing] the beauty of the city as reflective of the spirit of the age."
1. On April 15, 1912, Colin Campbell Cooper and his wife Emma were passengers on the RMS Carpathia when the transatlantic passenger steamship arrived on the scene of the RMS Titanic crash. Cooper and Emma assisted in the rescue of survivors. Later, Cooper painted several scenes of the rescue.
2. Cooper was elected to the prestigious National Academy of Design in 1912, but not without some challenges first. Cooper had originally been nominated in 1907, but was one of the 33 out of 36 nominees who were rejected. The 92 percent rejection rate sparked a feud in the academy between the progressives and the conservatives, which eventually lead to Robert Henri and other progressives leaving the "staid academy" to hold their own exhibitions.
3. The New York Times wrote in 1911 that "first and foremost in enthusiasm for the modern New York of today, the city of towering skyscrapers and fevered street traffic, is Colin Campbell Cooper, who may be considered the skyscraper artist par excellence of America"¦" Cooper was one of the first painters to use skyscrapers as an integral part of his subject matter.
4. In a dusty corner of the Santa Barbara City Hall basement, several unframed paintings by Cooper were discovered in 1981. Cooper had maintained residences in NYC and Santa Barbara, Calif., simultaneously for several years while he served as dean of the School of Painting at the Santa Barbara Community School of Arts.
5. During the 1930s, Cooper began writing plays, novels, and illustrated books, as well as an autobiography, In These Old Days. He also founded a Santa Barbara theater, The Strollers, where several of his plays were staged. His plays were also performed by local theater companies throughout California.
Fans should check out the collections of Cooper's work in University of Rochester's Memorial Art Gallery and artnet, as well as his paintings "New York Public Library," "A Garden Path," "View of New York City," and "Flat Iron Building."