Fri | Feb 23, 2018

National Gallery pays homage to Cecil Cooper

Published:Friday | September 23, 2016 | 12:00 AM
A 2016 untitled work by Cecil Cooper (2016, mixed media on canvas).
Cecil Cooper's Night Horse (1993, mixed media on canvas), which is in the National Gallery of Jamaica's collection.
Cecil Cooper (left) with Prime Minister Andrew Holness at the opening of his ‘Milestone’ exhibition at the Olympia Gallery on June 17, 2016.
Cecil Cooper at his studio in November 2015.

The National Gallery of Jamaica (NGJ ) has paid homage to renowned Jamaican painter, singer, and art educator Cecil Harvey Cooper, CD, who died on the morning of September 15, 2016.

Cecil Cooper was born in Hanover, Jamaica, in 1946. In 1966, he was one of the first graduates of the full-time diploma programme that had been introduced at the Jamaica School of Art under the directorship of Barrington Watson. He also lived in the USA, where he studied and obtained a BFA and, later, an MFA from the School of Visual Arts in New York City.

In 1981, Cooper became head of the Painting Department of his alma mater, the Jamaica School of Art, which is now part of the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts. He continued in that position until his retirement in 2009 and has taught and mentored many noted younger artists, such as Omari Ra, Oneika Russell, Phillip Thomas and Ebony G. Patterson.

Cecil Cooper worked mainly in paint media, using gestural painting and drawing techniques. His thematic preoccupation with the joys and anxieties of the human condition, and particularly the central roles of women in society, reflected a romantic temperament that was also evident in his musical work as a classical tenor. He exhibited regularly at the NGJ, Harmony Hall, the Mutual Gallery and, most recently, Round Hill and the Olympia Art Gallery. He also exhibited at overseas galleries such as the Savacou Gallery in New York City.

His work is represented in many private, corporate and public collections, including the collection of the NGJ.

Senator Tom Tavares-Finson, chairman of the NGJ's board of management, paid tribute to Cooper "as one of the artists who had charted the direction of Jamaican art in recent decades, through his outstanding artistic work and his distinguished service to institutions such as the National Gallery and the Edna Manley College."

Dr Veerle Poupeye, the NGJ's executive director, hailed Cecil Cooper as "an artist who was completely immersed in his art as a way of life and a passionate art educator who challenged his students to be and do their best at all times."

Cecil Cooper had celebrated his 70th birthday in June 2016 with a major exhibition of work from 1978 to 2016, titled 'Milestone: Cecil Cooper at 70', which was held at the Olympia Gallery. On September 6, 2016, he received the Order of Distinction (OD), Commander Class, for his invaluable contribution to the arts. In 1993, he had been awarded the Institute of Jamaica's Bronze Musgrave Medal for his contribution to painting and art education.

He was a member of the NGJ's current board of management. He had also served on previous NGJ boards.