A couple of weeks ago I met Eileen Cooper, who two years ago became the first woman to be appointed an Officer of the Royal Academy of Arts since its inception. The Academy was founded by George III in 1768. Its founding members were a group of prominent artists and architects who were determined to achieve professional standing for British art. They also wanted to provide a venue for exhibitions that would be open to the public and to establish a school of art to pass on knowledge and skills to future generations. In October 2011 Eileen Cooper became Keeper of the Royal Academy, which includes her role as Keeper of the Royal Academy Schools.
Eileen grew up in Derbyshire in a working class family and was encouraged to pursue her artistic potential by her primary school headmaster. She later studied Fine Art at Goldsmith’s College and Royal College of Art, emerging as one of the major figures in British art in 1980s, exhibiting solo ever since.
This year Eileen is celebrating her 60th birthday and exhibiting her latest works at Art First. This may be a coincidence, but it certainly is a celebration of talent, fulfilment and purpose. Indeed, Eileen’s collection, Edge to Edge is once again bright, dynamic, intimate and playful. How do you like Paper Doll or Red Gloves below?
Her other works explore relationships, interaction and intimacy with characteristic energy and symbolism, such as Rabbit and Fox above.
In her own words, Eileen is inspired by a wide range of art, including Indian art, tribal art, Japanese prints, photography, film, animation and early Italian paintings. She loves works by Picasso, Alice Neel, Mary Cassatt and Louise Bourgeois.
I asked Eileen what she finds most rewarding about being Keeper of the Royal Academy:
“The most rewarding part of the job is having contact with the wonderful Royal Academy students. I learn something from them every day. I am very proud that the Royal Academy Schools operate a three year post graduate fine art course, providing emerging artists with professional education free of charge.”