THOMAS SIDNEY COOPER, RA
1803 - Canterbury - 1902
A sedgy brook in the meadows
Signed and dated 1878
Oil on panel: 18 x 24 in / 45 x 61 cm
Henry Lovatt, Wolverhampton
Private collection, UK
Richard Green, London, 2000
Private collection, UK
London, The Royal Academy of Arts, Summer Exhibition, 1878, no. 152
Kentish Gazette, 2nd & 9th April 1878
Kenneth J. Westwood, Thomas Sidney Cooper CVO, RA, His Life and Work, Volume One, David Leathers Publishing, Somerset, 2011, no. O.1878.3, pp. 399-400
Kenneth J. Westwood, Thomas Sidney Cooper CVO, RA, His Life and Work, Volume Two, David Leathers Publishing, Somerset, 2011, plate 267 illustrated
‘The….picture…is a gem. The brook is caught sight of in the foreground, and on its bank is a fine pollard tree, and these materials, with a herd of kine, in the hands of the artist, have been made into one of the sweetest little bits of landscape painting imaginable’ Kentish Gazette, 2nd & 9th April 1878.
Born in Canterbury, Thomas Sidney Cooper showed a marked interest in art from his earliest childhood, writing in his autobiography: ‘The earliest recollection that I have is on one Sunday morning, when I was sketching the cathedral.’ At the age of twelve he became assistant to a coach painter, an occupation he combined later with scene painting, whilst devoting his spare time to drawing and painting from nature. He always had great confidence in his artistic ability, stating: ‘I could not be bound as an apprentice for I had a mind above it.’ In 1823, he went to London, working briefly at the British Museum and becoming a student at the Royal Academy for a short time in 1824. Pecuniary difficulties forced him to return to Canterbury, where he earned a living giving private art lessons and selling a few of his paintings.
At the age of twenty-four he travelled in Europe, settling in Brussels where he married and stayed for four years. He became acquainted with the seventeenth century Dutch School and a contemporary Belgian animal painter, Eugene Joseph Verboeckhoven (1798-1881), who greatly influenced his style. He later wrote: ‘I was very much impressed by the feeling that this branch of art was not much practised in England.’ On his return to London, he soon gained a reputation for his pictures of cattle and sheep, which became extremely popular. Thomas Sidney Cooper was a prolific artist, gaining the record for consecutive exhibiting at the Royal Academy, with two hundred and sixty-six paintings shown between the years 1833 and 1902. He also exhibited at the British Institution, the Royal Society of British Artists and the New Watercolour Society. He was made an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1845, being made a member twenty-two years later. He became extremely prosperous in his later years, presenting his native city of Canterbury with ‘The Sidney Cooper Art Gallery’ which was built on the site of the house in which he was born.
His contemporary popularity is reflected in a critic’s description of him as a painter ‘whose pencil, in its particular department, is unrivalled in the present day, and has scarcely, if ever, been surpassed since ancient times’ (Art Journal, 1849). James Dafforne wrote of one of his works in 1843 - ‘A more delicious example of pure pastoral art was never produced by any painter.’ The work of Cooper is represented in the Birmingham City Art Gallery, the Blackburn City Art Gallery, the National Gallery of Wales, Cardiff, the Glasgow City Art Gallery, the Leeds City Art Gallery, the Leicester City Art Gallery, the Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool and the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wallace Collection and the National Gallery, London.