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Abraham Cooper was the subject of a recent lecture to the Aberystwyth Bibliographical Group by Mary Burdett Jones. He was born in 1787 the son of a London tobacconist, received a limited education, and commenced his working life aged 13 working in the equestrian circus Astley’s Amphitheatre, a venue which features in Dicken’s Old Curiosity Shop, and in Hard Times. The equestrian theatre was dangerous work, and by 1810 he was instead working as a groom for Henry Meux, proprietor of a successful Brewery, and later Sir Henry Meux, 1st Baronet. It was at around this time that Cooper obtained a manual on the subject and taught himself to paint. An early canvas was his portrait of one of his employer’s horses, which so pleased Henry Meux that he bought it and encouraged the young man’s new career. As a result Cooper then received some training in the studio of sporting painter Benjamin Marshall, and began to produce pictures which were reproduced as engravings in The Sporting Magazine. In 1812 the first of many paintings by Cooper was exhibited at The Royal Academy.
Like the cat, other surviving early works by Cooper faithfully describe the scenes a groom would encounter: race horses, working horses, an old pony and dogs.
But as Mary pointed out, the future lay in the burgeoning reproduction industry of the 19th century as magazines and books increasingly published fine engravings copied from artists’ works. Cooper became adept at the imaginative scenes required by the publishers, his horse and dog expertise and background in theatre making him the ideal illustrator. In 1828 Sir Walter Scott wrote the ballad The Death of Keeldar to accompany this picture by Cooper. It was published in ‘The Gem’ an annual publication for 1829.
While relatively few people owned an original work, engravings of his pictures penetrated the national consciousness through magazines, books and printed plates designed... more at http://www.letterfromaberystwyth.co.uk/abraham-cooper-ra/ undefined