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Life and work
Cope's father was Charles West Cope (1811–1890), a successful history and genre painter. He trained in art at Cary’s Art School before moving to the Royal Academy schools. He went on to establish his own portrait practice, exhibiting 288 works at the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of Portrait Painters between 1876 and 1935. He combined this prolific output with a prestigious roll call of sitters, ranging from Kings Edward VII, George V and Edward VIII, to Kaiser Wilhelm II and the Archbishop of Canterbury.
His clever use of fluid paint, striking colour and harsh artificial lighting are well seen in his portrait of Admiral of the Fleet Sir Frederick Richards in the National Maritime Museum, London (Greenwich Hospital Collection). His high-profile works and successful style won him many honours: in 1900 he became a fellow of the Royal Society of Portrait Painters; in 1910 he was elected Royal Academician; and in 1917 he was knighted. In addition to his busy painting practice, Cope established an art school in South Kensington and Vanessa Bell (1879–1961) was among his pupils.
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