Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Celebrating the brilliance of William T Cooper: via the JCU Library Special Collections

Internationally renowned artist and bird illustrator - William T Cooper died this year (on the Atherton Tablelands) at the age of 81 years, ending a most amazingly productive professional painting career which began in 1964 and ended in May, 2015.

Born in Newcastle, William T Cooper spent his childhood in the bush and his early years as an apprentice taxidermist, later becoming a window dresser and landscape artist.  However it is for his stunning illustrations of birds that he is most revered and James Cook University Library holds many of his publications across it’s various collections.
Caption:  View 1: A  JCU library staff member viewing one of the beautiful colour plates created by William T Cooper in a volume of "Australian Parrots".  Photo Credit:  Bronwyn McBurnie
Of particular note is the two volume collector’s issue of “Australian Parrots” published by Lansdowne Editions, Melbourne in 1980.  Held in the Shaw Collection of Australian Art & Culture (one of our many special collections) James Cook University Library Special Collections holds number 175 out of only 1000 copies published, which is signed by both the author Joseph M Forshaw and the illustrator William T Cooper.
Caption:  View 2: A  JCU library staff member viewing one of the beautiful colour plates created by William T Cooper in a volume of "Australian Parrots".  Photo Credit:  Bronwyn McBurnie
Both volumes are exquisitely bound in a deep sea green coloured leather featuring blind-embossing with a leather inset colour bird image on the front of each volume.  This deluxe edition is truly beautiful to behold.
Caption:  Details of the bird images which appear on each volume of the two volume set titled "Australian Parrots" by Joseph Forshaw and William T Cooper.  Photo Credit:  Bronwyn McBurnie
All members of community are very welcome to view this precious publication in the Special Collections Reading Room of the Eddie Koiki Mabo Library on the Townsville Campus.   Check here for our current opening hours.

William T Cooper was an extraordinarily talented man who lived in our northern community and contributed significantly to our understanding and appreciation of nature and wildlife.

In 1992 the Academy of Natural Sciences Philadelphia USA, presented him with their gold medal for distinction in natural history art. He is the first and only Australian recipient in its 190 year history. Then in 1994, he was also awarded the Order of Australia (AO) for his contribution to art and natural history.  James Cook University Library staff mourn the passing of William T Cooper and continue to celebrate his contribution through his many publications.

To learn more about William T Cooper, watch Birdman, the recent film by Sarah Scragg on his life and art.  To learn more about bird illustration then seek out William T Cooper's recent publication titled, "Capturing the Essence: Techniques for Bird Artists".

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