Mon | Jul 22, 2019

Artist, Educator and Musician Cecil Cooper is dead

Published:Saturday | September 17, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Retired educator and well regarded, realist painter Cecil Harvey Cooper died on Thursday. His passing comes little more than a week after he was conferred with Jamaica's fifth highest honour, the Order of Distinction (Commander Class), at a special investiture ceremony at King's House.

Cecil Cooper was one of the first students to graduate from the Jamaica School of Arts diploma programme in 1966. During that time, he was taught by artists such as Barrington Watson, who was then the director of studies and head of the painting department.

In those days he gravitated towards a style incorporating an expressive realism. His peers were Christopher Gonzalez, Winston Patrick, Kofi Kayiga, and Gene Pearson, who would all become respected artists in their own right.

Cooper's talents have not been restricted to the visual arts, and his talent as a classical musician exposed him to European forms. It was on the basis of these skills that he was awarded a scholarship by the Jamaican Government to study music in New York.




He attended the Art Students League, where he studied under the African-American abstract expressionist Norman Lewis, and a few years later, he attended the School of Visual Arts where he obtained his Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree in 1976.

Cooper began his professional career as a fine artist exhibiting in New York galleries, returning to Jamaica in 1980 when he began teaching painting at the Jamaica School of Art, now Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts.

In celebration of his birthday in June, he unveiled his final exhibition 'Milestone - Cecil Cooper at 70' an exhibition featuring works from his collection from 1948 to 2016 at the Olympia Gallery in Kingston.

The occasion allowed guests to glean greater insight into the world of Cooper and his art. The 42-piece collection reintroduced art enthusiast to some of the ideas and themes Cooper has presented over his career.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who had addressed the gathering, described Cooper as a pioneer in the field.

"The abstracted lyricism of his paintings suggests that there is no contradiction between Cecil Cooper the musician and Cecil Cooper the artist, but these two sides of his creative work are deeply connected," he said.