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Colin Campbell Cooper Makes Good First Impression at Santa Barbara Historical Museum

Exhibition of renowned American impressionist painter on display into October

Those who venture into the Santa Barbara Historical Museum over the next few months have the opportunity to see the work of an artist who is considered one of America’s greatest impressionist painters: Santa Barbara’s Colin Campbell Cooper.

The exhibit premiered Thursday evening, beginning with a presentation from Jean Stern, an art historian and executive director of the Irvine Museum. In his address to those in attendance, Stern gave a brief history of Cooper’s life while displaying some of his work, as well as work of the future artists who will be featured in upcoming exhibits at the Santa Barbara museum.

The Santa Barbara Historical Museum's latest exhibition features more than 30 works by Santa Barbara impressionist painter Colin Campbell Cooper.
The Santa Barbara Historical Museum’s latest exhibition features more than 30 works by Santa Barbara impressionist painter Colin Campbell Cooper.

Stern didn’t forget to mention the quality of the museum’s exhibit, noting, “This is the best exhibit I have seen on Colin Cooper. There are some paintings I had never seen before.”

The “oohs” and “aahs” that resonated from the crowd each time a new piece came up demonstrated Cooper’s uncanny ability to connect with Santa Barbara residents through his artwork.

“I long for the tranquility of Santa Barbara” read a quote from Cooper etched into the wall above his numerous paintings. “It is conducive to the sort of thing as painter craves — climate, flowers, mountains, seascapes.”

Cooper, who was born in 1856 and died in 1937, made a name for himself painting New York City street scenes before making his way to Southern California, where his surroundings helped him excel tremendously as an artist.

Among the 30-plus paintings featured in the exhibit, Cooper’s artistic versatility and travel experience are apparent in scenes of Europe, India, the East Coast and California. Of his Santa Barbara work, paintings of Samarkand and El Encanto hotels, the Santa Barbara Mssion and local private gardens also were on display.

Additionally, the exhibit is the first of many that will pay homage to the great artists who influenced the Santa Barbara art community during the 1920s and ‘30s with their work at the Santa Barbara School of the Arts. The school, which was founded in 1920, offered the teachings of many talented artists who shared their wisdom with thousands of students, helping them achieve outstanding careers of their own. Upcoming exhibitions include the work of Edward Borein and John Marshall Gamble.

“It has always been my aspiration to take a lead in spreading information of that institution and each of its teachers,” said David Bisol, the Santa Barbara Historical Museum’s executive director. “Naturally, Cooper was the first.”

The exhibit wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Marlene Miller, guest curator and museum trustee, whose efforts and connections allowed there to be such a great volume of Cooper’s paintings.

“We were very privileged to have Marlene Miller,” Bisol exclaimed. “She is an expert with such an entrée to private collections in California. She really did donate all of her time to creating this exhibition.”

Miller said she was proud to be a part of it.

“I’m very thrilled to have been able to put together such a wonderful collection of his work,” Miller said of Cooper during the event’s reception. “From Europe to the East Coast to Santa Barbara, it was quite a task (to acquire so much of his work) and I feel that it gives you quite a feel about what Collin Cooper was all about.”

The Colin Campbell Cooper exhibit is on display through Oct. 9 at the museum, 136 E. De la Guerra St. The museum is open from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays, and noon to 5 p.m. Sundays. Admission is free but donations are always welcome.

Click here for more information on the Santa Barbara Historical Museum, or call 805.966.1601.

Noozhawk intern Michael Goldsholl will be a sophomore at Loyola Marymount University in the fall. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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