History San José has loaned several paintings from our collection to the Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts at Stanford University for the exhibit Astley D. M. Cooper and Mrs. Stanford’s Jewels, on display through November 16th. Curator Annie Ronan, recently awarded her PhD from Stanford’s Department of Art & Art History, gave an enlightening and humorous talk on the subject this week at the Cantor, offering a new understanding of Cooper’s work and his San Jose milieu.
In Ronan’s words, “Cooper, like many of his Californian contemporaries, has been more or less forgotten over the years, ignored by accounts of American art history, which tend to focus on East Coast cities…however, there’s something about Cooper that simply refuses to fade into the background. His canvases are too compelling, too replete with good humor and wild imagination to be ignored.”
While not ignoring his reputation as a drinker and bohemian, Ronan re-situated Cooper as “arguably the most well-known and financially successful painter in California” at the time; beginning in 1890 his works were on tour throughout the country, on display to crowds at locations such as department stores, and fetching more-than-respectable prices. Ronan argues that he was particularly celebrated for his ability to paint illusion, and delighted in “toying with the viewer’s perception.”
Cooper originally moved to San Francisco from St. Louis, before relocating to San Jose, where he built a studio on the corner of San Antonio and 21st Street, a replica of an Egyptian temple, designed by architect Fred Thompson, who also designed the buildings for the 1901 Pan American Exposition in Buffalo. The building was torn down in the 1940s, little more than a decade after Cooper’s death in 1924.
Ronan had little idea of the quantity of Cooper artwork in our collection when she came to our Collection Center to view a few of his paintings as part of her research; when she discovered that we hold over 100 of his sketches, some from his childhood, she was able to broaden her scope exponentially. Thanks to several avid Cooper collectors in the Bay Area, in addition to History San José, who loaned paintings to the exhibit, the true variety of Cooper’s work as well as its intriguing relationship to “Mrs. Stanford’s Jewels” is available for inquiring and/or appreciative visitors.
Astley D. M. Cooper and Mrs. Stanford’s Jewels
Through November 16, 2015
Lynn Krywick Gibbons Gallery, Iris & B. Gerald Cantor Center for Visual Arts