Tributes paid to much-loved Norfolk artist who could only see with one eye

( EDI) Dereham artist William Cooper exhibiting his work at Country Gallery Fine Art.

William Cooper exhibiting his work in 2009. - Credit: Graham Corney

He was renowned for his paintings that show Norfolk at its idyllic best - a land of rivers and marshes, watermills and abbeys, hardy locals and working heavy-horses.

And now tributes have been paid to William Cooper, known as Bill, who has died aged 85 after living most of his life in Dereham.

Mr Cooper's artistic success is all the more remarkable for the obstacles he overcame - he was born red/green colour-blind, lost the use of one eye in a motorcycle accident when he was 21 and was virtually blind later in life due to a detached retina in his other eye.

(2/3) Munnings inspired, Toftwood artist William Cooper with an oil copy.

William Cooper working on an artwork in 2009. - Credit: Graham Corney

But to those he loved most he will be remembered not only for his talent but as a kind and gentle man who liked a tipple, lots of ice cream and happy times making memories with his family.

Daughter Christine Long, 61, said: "His heart was in Norfolk - he loved this county so much and loved to paint it. He had a bit of a fan club of people who kept coming back and buying picture after picture.


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"He often painted things like threshing machines and heavy horses, it was a very nostalgic view of Norfolk which pulled on the heartstrings of a lot of people."

Mr Cooper was born in Surrey, and after their father entered service in the Second World War his mother moved him, his brother Gordon and sister Sylvia to Norfolk, in 1941. 

Bill Cooper outside the National Gallery in London. 

Bill Cooper outside the National Gallery in London. - Credit: Supplied by the family

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Mrs Long said: "They enjoyed an idyllic childhood, swimming in rivers and making popguns in the woods around Billingford, often arriving home dirty and dishevelled, much to their mother’s consternation."

Mr Cooper attended  Crown Road Secondary School in Dereham and then Norwich Art School. After school he got a job with a Mr Banjer and learned wood turning, and then worked as a saw doctor at the sawmill in Westfield Road, Toftwood.    

Mr Cooper then did three years of National Service.

Mrs Long said: "Despite some traumatic experiences as a result of the Suez crisis, he thoroughly enjoyed his National Service in Egypt and Cyprus and signed up for a further year.

"This time left a lasting impression on his memory."

Bill Cooper in uniform during his three years of National Service, 1954-1956.

Bill Cooper in uniform during his three years of National Service, 1954-1956. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Bill Cooper in uniform during his three years of National Service, 1954-1956.

Bill Cooper in uniform during his three years of National Service, 1954-1956. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Afterwards he returned to work at the Jewsons site, and got married to Madge in 1959. 

Mr Cooper continued to create oil paintings and drawings in his spare time, holding an annual exhibition at the Norwich Assembly Rooms. In the 1970s, he and Madge opened a small gallery in Dereham, and in the 1980s, Mr Cooper went professional, and his artistic style developed further.

Mrs Long said:  "He decided to take the plunge and go full time as an artist. It was always something he'd wanted to do and he thought he'd give it a shot."

"Although he was an oil painter, his drawing skills were also second to none. It's all part and parcel of being an artist. 

(1/2 EDI ) Artistic brothers, Gordon, left and William Cooper exhibiting their work together in Dere

Artistic brothers, Gordon, left, and William Cooper exhibiting their work together in Dereham in the year 2000. - Credit: Graham Corney

"Over the years he built up an extensive catalogue of work which focussed mainly on landscapes, seascapes.

"He became so interested in the Impressionists, with their movement and light and complementary colours.

"He continued working independently holding solo annual exhibitions in and around Norfolk."

Bill Cooper with wife Madge and daughters Christine and Melanie in 1976, getting the gallery ready to open.

Bill Cooper with wife Madge and daughters Christine and Melanie in 1976, getting the gallery ready to open. - Credit: Supplied by the family

William 'Bill' Cooper with some of his artworks.

William 'Bill' Cooper with some of his artworks. - Credit: Supplied by the family

Mrs Long said theirs was an artistic family, and they had enjoyed visiting exhibitions in London and Monet's former home in Giverny. She said at one point five members of the family all held a joint exhibition. 

Mrs Long said that although the motorcycle accident was "quite horrific" and had reduced his vision to one eye, it was something he learned to live with and made his achievements as an artist all the more admirable.

Mr Cooper is survived by Madge, brother Gordon, two sisters Pat and Jo, William's two daughters Christine and Melanie, as well as two sons-in law, four grand-children.

Mrs Long said: "He will be greatly missed by his close and extended family alike."





 

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