Cooper, Douglas, 1911-1984

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Douglas Cooper pursued a long career as art critic, curator and collector, producing numerous books, catalogs, articles and reviews. He also amassed a distinguished collection of early Cubist paintings.

From the description of Douglas Cooper papers, 1900-1985, bulk 1933-1985. (Getty Research Institute). WorldCat record id: 81481745

Biographical/Historical Note

Douglas Cooper was born in London in 1911 to a family that had made a fortune in Australia and acquired a baronetcy. After briefly attending Oxford, Freiburg and the Sorbonne, he came into his inheritance, a third of which he employed to amass a collection of early Cubist paintings (1906-1914) by Picasso, Braque, Gris and Leger. During the same decade he was associated with the Mayor Gallery in London, serving as curator, lecturer, and essayist, presenting the European Modernists to a British audience and developing a wide range of art world acquaintances.

During WWII, Cooper served first as an ambulance driver in pre-Vichy France, an experience recounted in The Road to Bordeaux (with Denys Freeman, 1940), then as an intelligence officer interrogating German prisoners of war, and finally as an investigator of Nazi art thieves and the dealers who collaborated with them. Returning to London after the war, he again took up his career as art critic, curator and connoisseur, producing a formidable number of books, catalogs, articles and reviews, among which were Leger (1949), Picasso: Les Dejeuners (1962), The Cubist Epoch (1971), Juan Gris: Catalogue Raisonné (with Margaret Potter, 1977), and The Essential Cubism (with Gary Tinterow, 1983). While the focus of his work remained the Paris School of early Cubism, Cooper also wrote on Degas, Turner, Klee, Sutherland, Guttoso, and numerous others. A personal friend of many of the artists whose work he collected or reviewed, Cooper reserved his highest praise for Picasso, whom he commissioned to create a design for a wall at his Chateau de Castille in Provence.

Known equally for his charm and cantankerousness, Cooper engaged in many battles with those art institutions and individuals whom he perceived as insufficiently persuaded of the greatness of European Modernism. The most famous of these controversies involved the Tate Gallery, which he assiduously attacked for more than twenty years. Until the end of his life, Cooper continued to lecture and curate exhibitions throughout Europe and the U.S. He also wrote radio broadcasts and film narrations about art history. He died in 1984, leaving most of his estate to his adopted son, William McCarty Cooper.

From the guide to the Douglas Cooper papers, 1900-1985, 1933-1985, (Getty Research Institute)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
referencedIn Papers of the magazine Transition, 1933-1941. Houghton Library
creatorOf Tarragon Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). They Dance At Night / by Douglas Cooper, 1984 - unproduced reading script. University of Guelph. McLaughlin Library
creatorOf Cooper, Douglas, 1911-1984. Correspondence with Edward F. Fry, 1962-1973. University of Pennsylvania Library
creatorOf Tarragon Theatre Archives (University of Guelph). Grace / by Douglas Cooper, 1987 - unproduced reading script. University of Guelph. McLaughlin Library
referencedIn Valentin, Curt, 1902-1954. Curt Valentin papers, 1937-1955. Metropolitan Museum of Art, Thomas J. Watson Library
creatorOf Potter, Margaret. Margaret Potter papers, 1954-1983. Archives of American Art
referencedIn Severini, Gino, 1883-1966. Letter from Gino Severini, Meudon, ca. 1949. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. Director's Office Records, 1955-1977. Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, The Clark
creatorOf Cooper, Douglas, 1911-1984. Douglas Cooper papers, 1900-1985, bulk 1933-1985. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Cooper, Douglas, 1911-1984. Gauguin catalogue raisonnee, ca. 1975. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Somerset, D. R. (David R.). Correspondence regarding purchase of paintings : 1949-1954, 1955-1956 May. University of New Brunswick, Fredericton, Harriet Irving Library
creatorOf Douglas Cooper papers, 1900-1985, 1933-1985 Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Ford, Brinsley. Brinsley Ford papers relating to Richard Wilson, ca. 1920-ca. 1949. Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Steegmuller, Francis, 1906-1994. Letters from Douglas Cooper, 1966-1997. Getty Research Institute
Role Title Holding Repository
Relation Name
associatedWith Arp, Jean, 1887-1966. person
associatedWith Bell, Clive, 1881-1964. person
associatedWith Braque, Georges, 1882-1963. person
associatedWith Buquet, Alain person
associatedWith Buquet, Alain. person
associatedWith Cézanne, Paul, 1839-1906. person
associatedWith Chagall, Marc, 1887-1985. person
associatedWith De Chirico, Giorgio, 1888-1978. person
associatedWith Delacroix, Eugène, 1798-1863. person
associatedWith Ford, Brinsley. person
associatedWith Gauguin, Paul, 1848-1903. person
associatedWith Gogh, Vincent van, 1853-1890. person
associatedWith Gris, Juan, 1887-1927. person
associatedWith Guttuso, Renato, 1911-1987 person
associatedWith Kandinsky, Wassily, 1866-1944. person
associatedWith Klee, Paul, 1879-1940. person
associatedWith Léger, Fernand, 1881-1955. person
associatedWith Marini, Marino, 1901-1980. person
associatedWith Mayor Gallery. corporateBody
associatedWith Miró, Joan, 1893-1983. person
associatedWith Moore, Henry, 1898-1986. person
associatedWith Museo del Prado. corporateBody
associatedWith Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973. person
associatedWith Potter, Margaret. person
associatedWith Read, Herbert, 1893-1968. person
associatedWith Severini, Gino, 1883-1966. person
associatedWith Shirley, Andrew, 1900-1958. person
associatedWith Staël, Nicolas de, 1914-1955. person
associatedWith Steegmuller, Francis, 1906-1994. person
associatedWith Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute. corporateBody
associatedWith Sutherland, Graham Vivian, 1903-1980. person
associatedWith Tarragon Theatre Archives (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Tarragon Theatre Archives (University of Guelph) corporateBody
associatedWith Tate Gallery. corporateBody
correspondedWith Transition. corporateBody
correspondedWith Valentin, Curt, 1902-1954. person
Place Name Admin Code Country
National socialism and art
Painting, Modern
Post-impressionism (Art)
World War, 1939-1945
Art, Modern
Architecture, Modern
Art historians
Art thefts
Art thefts
École de Paris
École de Paris


Birth 1911-02-20

Death 1984-04-01






Ark ID: w6087vjr

SNAC ID: 64313247