The first major survey exhibition of British artist Eileen Cooper RA brings together over 40 works created across Cooper’s 40-year career. Her work is presented in parallel with paintings, drawings, prints, ceramics and sculpture from Leicester’s Art Collection by artists including Paula Rego, L.S Lowry, Peter Doig, Pablo Picasso and Therese Lessore.
Eileen Cooper first drew attention in the 1980s with her commitment to figurative painting. She is known predominantly as a painter and printmaker, but her work extends into drawing, collage, ceramics and sculpture.
The exhibition will look at the areas of artistic influence and themes in art history that have informed Cooper’s works while also considering where ideas and inspiration come from and how museum collections have impacted on artists today.
Opening with Cooper’s self-portraits, including Studio with Tiger (2002-3), which depicts the artist in her studio populated by some of her familiar motifs, shown in parallel with Lotte Laserstein’s Self-portrait with a Cat (1928).
Other exhibition highlights include Creepy Crawly (1987), an example of Cooper’s early figurative painting which was influenced by German Expressionism, and in particular Leicester’s Red Woman (1912) by Franz Marc, a work that captured her attention when she was teaching at Leicester Polytechnic.
Cooper is an artist who has worked extensively in the field of arts education. She taught Peter Doig at St Martin’s School of Art, and his painting Concrete Cabin (1991-2) will be shown alongside Cooper’s Going Ape (1982).
As the first woman Keeper of the Royal Academy of Arts, Cooper was responsible for turning around the reputation of the RA Schools, and today it is known internationally as one of the best post-graduate art schools. Her love of teaching is reflected in her drawings over 50 of her RA students, three of which will be on show for the first time in the exhibition.
In the same way Cooper is drawn to the collaborative process of printmaking, her interest in ceramics grew from meeting Janice Tchalenko, Glenys Barton and Jacqui Poncelet while they were teaching at Camberwell. This opened up a network with other ceramicists, including Annie Turner. The exhibition will bring together key works created in collaboration with Turner, shown alongside ceramics by Picasso.
The exhibition will also focus on key themes and genres in art history that relate across both Cooper’s work and the collection. From La Toilette, The Nude and Mother and Child to Beasts, Dance and Circus, these themes also highlight Cooper’s preoccupation with the physical body.
Highlights include new works such as Mother’s Day (2021), in which Cooper revisits of motherhood thanks to the recent arrival of a granddaughter. Motherland by Royal Academician Thomas Cantrell Dugdale; Evergreen (2018), inspired by a visit to Lebanon and its forests of cedar trees; and Spring Fever, 2013 shown alongside The Violinists by Arnold Gerstl (1888-1956).
Parallel Lines: Eileen Cooper and Leicester’s Art Collection is curated by Kathleen Soriano, independent art curator, writer and television broadcaster. The exhibition is accompanied by a publication featuring essays by Kathleen Soriano and Linsey Young, Curator of Contemporary British Art at Tate. The publication is generously supported by Eileen Cooper’s London gallery, Huxley Parlour.
Parallel Lines: Eileen Cooper and Leicester’s Art Collection press release