Vanity vs The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy

[Left: Vanity (1907) oil on panel 57 x 38 cm Diploma work accepted 1936 Royal Academy] [Right: La Belle Dame Sans Merci (AkaThe Beautiful Lady Without Mercy“) (1926) canvas 102 x 97 cm private collection, London]

English painter and portrait  illustrator Frank Cadogan Cowper was born in Wicken, Northamptonshire on 6 October 1877. He was the son of the author and early pioneer of coastal cruising in yachts, Frank Cowper, and grandson of the Rector of Wicken.

  • Cadogan Cowper first studied art at St John’s Wood Art School in 1896 and continued at the Royal Academy Schools from 1897-1902.
  • He is referred to as “The last of the Pre-Raphaelites” as he continued painting Arthurian knights and damsels in distress at the Royal Academy well into the 20th Century.

Cowper first exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1899, and spent six months studying under Edwin Austin Abbey before travelling to Italy.

As an artist, he worked in both watercolours and oils; and as an illustrator; provided the illustrations for Sir Sidney Lee’s The Imperial Shakespeare. He contributed to a mural in the Houses of Parliament in 1910 along with Byam Shaw, Ernest Board and Henry Arthur Payne. He died on 17 November 1958.

  • The record price for a Cowper painting at sale is £469,250 for “Our Lady of the Fruits of the Earth” (1917) at Christie‘s in London on 17 December 2011.

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