Frank Cadogan Cowper

Frank Cadogan Cowper, the final beacon of the Pre-Raphaelite movement, left an indelible mark on the art world. A child of literary pedigree and coastal exploration, he began to hone his artistic skills at St John’s Wood Art School in 1896. His passion for art was undeniable, as he went on to study at the prestigious Royal Academy of Arts from 1897 until 1902.

Frank Cadogan Cowper
Frank Cadogan Cowper – The Young Duchess (detail) – watercolour with bodycolour Works on Paper 1917

The art world soon took notice of Cowper in 1901, when he presented his hauntingly beautiful painting “An Aristocrat answering the Summons to Execution, Paris 1791” – a piece that cemented his reputation. He was a multi-talented artist, fluent in both watercolors and oil paints, and his immense talent found expression in book illustrations as well.

Cowper’s works of art also adorned the walls of the English parliament building, where he worked alongside artists such as Byam Shaw, Ernest Board, and Henry Arthur Payne in creating a mural.

An associate member of the Royal Watercolor Society in 1904 and a full member since 1911, Cowper’s works were greatly admired and helped him to earn his place as a full member of the Royal Academy in 1934. He retired to Gloucestershire near the end of his illustrious career, but his legacy lived on. In 2005, his piece “The Ugly Duckling” was voted as a favorite by visitors to the Cheltenham Art Gallery & Museum.

Frank Cadogan Cowper passed away in 1958, but his art remains a testament to his dedication, skill, and profound emotional depth.


What is the Royal Watercolour Society?

The Royal Watercolour Society (RWS) is a prestigious British institution consisting of artists who specialize in the watercolour technique.

Its origins date back to 1804 when William Frederick Wells founded it as the Society of Painters in Water Colours, together with William Sawrey Gilpin, Robert Hills, John Claude Nattes, John Varley, Cornelius Varley, Francis Nicholson, Samuel Shelley, William Henry Pyne and Nicholas Pocock. The founding members seceded from the Royal Academy since they felt their works were not given the respect they deserved.

Over the years, the society underwent many transformations in name before becoming the Royal Watercolour Society in 1988. Among its current members are distinguished artists such as Sonia Lawson, Elizabeth Blackadder and David Remfry. The RWS is a separate organization from the Royal Institute of Painters in Water Colours and has gained a reputation for producing some of the finest watercolours in Britain.

The Business of Watercolour: A Guide to the Archives of the Royal Watercolour Society by Fenwick and Smith (1997) provides an insight into the history and workings of this esteemed institution.

Frank Cadogan Cowper Link

Royal Academy

Art History