Abraham Cooper R.A.
Born of September 8 th at Red Lion Street, Abraham Cooper was the son of a tobacconist who later kept an inn, first at Holloway and than at Edmonton. At the age of thirteen Abraham joined Astley’s circus, managed by his uncle William Edmonton. Astley’s was a great 19 th century attraction and combined a proscenium sage with a circus ring. Equestrian plays were put on, often with knights in armor, and were presumably one of the more penetrating influences of Cooper’s childhood. Despite his aptitude for drawing, it was not until the age of twenty two that with the help of William Davis, he became a pupil of Benjamin Marhsall. Within two years of his focusing to painting Cooper was contributing to The Sporting Magazine. A large number of his prints were produced after his work and like his master he painted many racehorse portraits. On of the most interesting is of the portrait of ‘Ellis’ of Doncaster 1836, with his “traveling” horse box in the background.
In 1813 Cooper painted his first painting for the Duke of Portland who was to become one of his major patrons. In 1829 he produced a very successful painting entitle ‘The Shooting Party’, after which he used this subject with frequency. Amongst his patrons were the Prince Regent, Queen Adelaide and Queen Victoria as well as many titled gentry.
Cooper married Mrs. Francis D’Ebro by whom he had two sons, Alexander Davis Cooper and Alfred William Cooper. He also had a step son.
He first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1812. He was elected to the RA in 1819. He worked mainly in oil and sometimes in watercolor, and normally signed in monogram. The influence of Marshall is particularly marked in his racehorse portraits which are of very good quality. J.F. Herring, Senior and William Barraud both studied under Cooper, and his influence and style is very apparent in some of their work.
Abraham Cooper’s work always sold well during his lifetime and it is thought he made a comfortable living. He died on Christmas Eve at Woodbine Cottage, Greenwich, and was buried at Highgate. His obituary in The Sporting Magazine described has as “a guileless gentleman and a thorough sportsman who rode well to hounds, was a good shot and a clever fly fisherman”.