Scope and Content of Collection
Title: Douglas Cooper papers
Date (inclusive): 1900-1985, bulk 1933-1985
Cooper, Douglas, 1911-1984
37.5 linear feet
The Getty Research Institute
1200 Getty Center Drive, Suite 1100
Los Angeles, California, 90049-1688
This collection chronicles Douglas Cooper's long career as critic, curator, and collector, as well his wide circle of associations
within the art world. Limited to his professional life, it encompasses his curatorship of the Mayor Gallery (London), his
investigation of art stolen by Nazis, and his penchant for controversy. It includes correspondence, manuscripts, printed matter,
photographs, clippings, audiovisual materials, and a variety of other media.
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Language: Collection material is in
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
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, Guttuso, 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.
Open for use by qualified researchers.
Douglas Cooper papers, 1900-1985, bulk 1933-1985, The Getty Research Institute, Los Angeles, Accession no. 860161.
Acquired from William McCarty-Cooper in 1986.
The Douglas Cooper Papers were acquired in 1986. Subsequently, theater programs and a miniature copy of Grimm's fairy tales
illustrated by David Hockney were moved into the collection from Special Collections accn. no. 860281. Preliminary processing
was done, and a box list was prepared. Annette Leddy completed processing the collection in 1997 and wrote this finding aid.
In 2013, when the the Cooper research photographs were reintegrated, Jan Bender wrote the inventory for the relevant subseries
and Ann Harrison made further revisions.
A portion of the research photographs was moved to the Photo Archive, Paintings Section (accession no. 86.P.2) shortly after
the collection was received in 1986. In 2013, this material was restored to accession no. 860161, the Douglas Cooper papers.
Books were transferred to the Getty Research Institute Library. A Brinsley Ford/Richard Wilson item was moved to Special Collections
accession no. 860298. Janis Gallery material was moved to Special Collections accession no. 890044**.
Scope and Content of Collection
The collection embraces all papers relating to Cooper's career as a critic, curator, and collector that remained with his
estate at the time of his death. The correspondence reflects Cooper's wide circle of friends and acquaintances in the art
world, his work as an art expert, and his penchant for controversy. All of Cooper's published books, catalogs, articles and
reviews are represented, with the writing process often documented from initial notes and correspondence, through various
drafts of the manuscript, to clippings of reviews. There are correspondence and clippings from Cooper's tenure at the Mayor
Gallery, as well as correspondence and reports relating to his investigation of Nazi art collections. Photographs, slides
and transparencies comprise nearly one-third of the collection. They document Cooper's art collection and the Picasso wall
at his Chateau de Castille, his research for writings and exhibitions, his work as an art authenticator, and also record the
architectural monuments he viewed during his travels.
Missing from the collection is Cooper's correspondence with Picasso (now in the Picasso Museum in Paris), the manuscript of
Road to Bordeaux (1940), and papers relating to the unfinished Gauguin catalog raisonée. The correspondence, while personal as well as professional,
is not of a highly intimate nature. There are very few personal photographs.
Media in the collection include manuscripts, photographs, slides and transparencies (glass and film), clippings, audio tapes,
Super 8 film, and small metal toys.
The collection is arranged in 9 series:
Series I. Correspondence, 1939-1984;
Series II. Manuscripts, 1934-1984;
Series III. Records of the Mayor Gallery, London, 1933-1938;
Series IV. Papers relating to Nazi art collections, 1940-1946;
Series V. Exhibitions, 1948-1983, undated;
Series VI. Photographic materials, 1900-1984, undated;
Series VII. Personal and Printed matter, 1933-1985, undated;
Series VIII. Audio tapes and film, ca. 1970-1975;
Series IX. Toys, undated.
Subjects - Names
Arp, Jean, 1887-1966
Braque, Georges, 1882-1963
Chagall, Marc, 1887-1985
Cooper, Douglas, 1911-1984
Cézanne, Paul, 1839-1906
De Chirico, Giorgio, 1888-1978
Delacroix, Eugène, 1798-1863
Gauguin, Paul, 1848-1903
Gogh, Vincent van, 1853-1890
Gris, Juan, 1887-1927
Kandinsky, Wassily, 1866-1944
Klee, Paul, 1879-1940
Marini, Marino, 1901-1980
Miró, Joan, 1893-1983
Picasso, Pablo, 1881-1973
Staël, Nicolas de , 1914-1955
Subjects - Corporate Bodies
Museo del Prado
Subjects - Topics
Architecture, Modern--20th century
Art, Modern--Collectors and collecting
National socialism and art
Painting, Modern--20th century
World War, 1939-1945--Art and the war
École de Paris
Subjects - Titles
Essential Cubism, 1907-1920: Braque, Picasso & their friends
Fernand Léger et le nouvel espace
Juan Gris: catalogue raisonné de l'oeuvre peint ...
Les déjeuners / Pablo Picasso
Sunshine at midnight: memories of Picasso and Cocteau
Genres and Forms of Material
Bell, Clive, 1881-1964
Guttuso, Renato, 1911-1987
Léger, Fernand, 1881-1955
Moore, Henry, 1898-1986
Read, Herbert, 1893-1968
Shirley, Andrew, 1900-1958
Steegmuller, Francis, 1906-1994
Sutherland, Graham Vivian, 1903-1980