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Frank Cadogan Cowper | The last of the Pre-Raphaelites

From: Christie's
Frank Cadogan Cowper was born in 1877 at Wicken in Northamptonshire, where his maternal grandfather was rector. He studied art at the St John's Wood Art School and then spent five years in the Royal Academy Schools (1897-1902), before entering the Cotswold studio of Edwin Austin Abbey (1852-1911).
After six months working with this American muralist who, like his friend John Singer Sargent, had taken up residence in England, Cowper completed his artistic education by studying for a while in Italy.

Although he exhibited widely, supporting the Royal Watercolour Society and the Royal Institute of Painters in Oil Colours, as well as sending to the Paris Salon, Cowper remained loyal to the Royal Academy, where he exhibited regularly from 1899 until his death nearly sixty years later.
He became an Associate in 1907 and a full academician in 1934.

Throughout his life he painted subject pictures, whether historical, biblical or literary, although as the taste for these declined in the early years of the twentieth century, he turned increasingly to portraits, specialising in glamorous and slightly fey likenesses of young women which vaguely reflected his interest in literary themes.

His early work is strongly influenced by the Pre-Raphaelites; a striking example is St Agnes in Prison receiving from Heaven the Shining White Garment (Tate Gallery), a Chantrey purchase of 1905 which quotes from Rossetti, Sir John Everett Millais and Madox Brown.
Comparisons can be made with Byam Shaw and his friend Eleanor Fortescue-Brickdale, who were his slightly older contemporaries.

Unlike the Birmingham Group of painters, some of whom had met Burne-Jones and all of whom certainly regarded Pre-Raphaelitism as a living tradition, these artists looked on the movement as a phenomenon ripe for revival, going back to the early work of the Brotherhood and attempting to reinterpret it in a more academic spirit.
By about 1906 Cadogan Cowper was adopting a more Renaissance idiom, often with an emphasis on rich brocades to create a decorative effect.

His RA diploma picture, Vanity, exhibited in 1907, the year he became an Associate, is particularly significant since it borrows motifs from Guilio Romano's portrait of Isabella d'Este at Hampton Court, a picture which had inspired the young Burne-Jones half a century earlier.
In 1908-10 he contributed to the murals illustrating Tudor history which a group of artists, supervised by his former master, Abbey, painted for the Commons' East Corridor in the Houses of Parliament.

Cowper's subject was The New Learning in England: Erasmus and Thomas More visit the children of Henry VII at Greenwich.
But his most sumptuous essay in Renaissance subject matter was Lucretia Borgia reigns in the Vatican in the Absence of Pope Alexander VI, another Chantrey picture which was exhibited at the RA in 1914.
Cowper's later work undoubtedly deteriorated and is often mawkish in mood, but he is rightly regarded as one of the last exponents of the Pre-Raphaelite tradition.

As such he was patronised by Evelyn Waugh and included in the Last Romantics exhibition at the Barbican in 1989.
He was in fact responsible for one of the latest pictures in the show, The Four Queens find Lancelot sleeping (private collection), exhibited at the RA no earlier than 1954.

In subject, mood and technique, this astonishing example of Pre-Raphaelite survival might belong to the 1900s.
Only the types of the figures, which look like 1950s film stars (Vivien Leigh and Glynis Johns as the Queens, perhaps; certainly Kenneth More as Sir Lancelot) give a clue to its real date. | Source: © Christie's

Frank Cadogan Cowper (Wicken, 16 ottobre 1877 - 17 novembre 1958) è stato un pittore Britannico, conosciuto come "l'ultimo dei Preraffaelliti".

Figlio di uno degli autori e pionieri delle crociere costiere in yacht, Frank Cowper, e nipote del rettore di Wicken, Frank Cadogan Cowper cominciò a studiare arte dal 1896 alla St John's Wood Art School e in seguito alla Royal Academy of Arts dal 1897 al 1902.

Espose alla Royal Academy nel 1899, e fu apprezzato dalla critica due anni dopo alla sua An Aristocrat answering the Summons to Execution, Paris 1791 nel 1901.

Nel 1902 studiò per sei mesi sotto l'insegnamento di Edwin Austin Abbey, prima di intraprendere un viaggio per l'Italia.
Lavorò sia con gli acquarelli che con la pittura ad olio, come illustratore per il libro di Sir Sidney Lee The Imperial Shakespeare.

Realizzò un murale assieme a Byam Shaw, Ernest Board e Henry Arthur Payne per il palazzo del parlamento inglese nel 1910.
Quando la moda dell'arte cambiò Cowper aumentò le esposizioni di ritratti, ma continuò a realizzare quadri con temi storici ed artistici.

Si ritirò da Londra per andare nel Gloucestershire, il suo dipinto il brutto anatroccolo (The Ugly Duckling) è stato votato come il preferito dai visitatori della Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum nel 2005.

Fu membro associato della Royal Watercolour Society dal 1904 e membro effettivo dal 1911, invece della Royal Academy fu associato dal 1907 ed effettivo dal 1934.| Fonte: © Wikipedia