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Cooper, Alfred Heaton

Born in Bolton, Lancashire, Alfred was one of six children – his parents worked in the local cotton mill. After leaving school at 14, Alfred worked as a clerk at Bolton Town Hall but spent his spare time drawing and painting the Lancashire moors, as well as the Lake District and Yorkshire. With his mother’s encouragement, he secured a scholarship to Westminster School of Art in 1884 where he studied under George Clausen. He explored the influences of Turner, Constable and the Barbizon school of landscape painters.

He cut short his studies to travel, to Yorkshire (retracing Turner’s steps), then Morocco and finally settling in Norway. He established a studio in Balestrand in 1891 next to Sognefjord, a place popular with tourists. There he married Mathilde (1894) but, realising they could not make a living in the area, they returned to Bolton, then Southport, eventually settling in the Lake District. Alfred painted local landscapes but also the people at work around him, such as charcoal burners, woodmen, farmers and fishermen.

Children, Ellide, Frithjof and William were born between 1898 and 1903, after which they moved to a bigger house in Coniston. Throughout this period, they took regular trips to Norway and Alfred continued to paint his watercolour landscapes. The motifs of his watercolours show the beautiful nature of his homeland or dreamy scenes from the Norwegian fjords. He shipped a log cabin from Norway to Coniston (and later Ambleside) which was to be his gallery and studio for the rest of his life. Their log cabin in Balholm, Norway, is still known as ‘Cooperhus’ today.

Alfred was commissioned by A&C Black, publishers of popular guidebooks, for 75 watercolours to illustrate a large book about the Lake District. After the success of this, Heaton was asked to write and illustrate ‘The Norwegian Fjords’ (1907), ‘The Isle of Wight’, ‘The Isle of Man’ and a further 9 guidebooks (until 1927).

He had paintings regularly accepted for the Royal Academy Summer show (usually oils) until 1925.

After a lifetime of painting and travelling, including further journeys to Switzerland in 1925, to the Lofoten Islands in 1927 and Snowdonia in 1927, Heaton died in Kendal hospital in 1929 at the age of 66.

His son William Heaton Cooper became a landscape painter as well. The family business founded by the Coopers still exists today. The Heaton Cooper Studio in the town of Grasmere is an art gallery and small shop.


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