Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Jamaican artist Cecil Harvey Cooper dies, a week after receiving national honour

Published:Thursday | September 15, 2016 | 1:35 PM
Cecil Harvey Cooper

Retired educator and well-regarded, realist painter Cecil Harvey Cooper died this morning.

His death comes just over 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, Karl Parboosingh, Vernal Reuben, Milton Harley and Albert Huie.

His peers were Christopher Gonzalez, Winston Patrick, Kofi Kayiga, and Gene Pearson who would all become respected artists in their own right.

In those days he gravitated towards a style incorporating an expressive realism.

Cooper's interests were not restricted to the visual arts, and his talent as a classical musician exposed him to European forms.

WATCH: Celebrating Cecil Cooper with art at 70 

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 enthusiasts to some of the ideas and themes Cooper has presented throughout his career.

Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who 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.