Best known as an impressionist painter of New York City skyscrapers and street scenes in the first decades of the twentieth century, Colin Campbell Cooper was an established artist of international renown when he traveled south in 1914 through Annapolis, Richmond, Charleston, and Savannah. During that trip, he painted this view of Charleston's St. Philip's Church and cemetery, bathed in a pale, iridescent atmosphere of fog and light.
Cooper was born in Philadelphia, the son of a cultured doctor and his wife, an amateur watercolorist. His interest in art was fueled by the landmark Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition in 1876. From 1879 to 1881, Cooper studied under Thomas Eakins at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. He then established a studio in the city and launched his prolific career and extensive travels, which would include, over time, the American West, Europe and India. Cooper went abroad to Holland in 1886, before moving to Paris in 1889 for further education at the academies Julien, Delacluse, and Viti. He met his wife, the painter Emma Lambert, at an art colony in Laren.
Cooper remained based in Philadelphia until 1904, when he established a New York studio. Working in both watercolors and oils, Cooper became highly accomplished in the mainstream traditional art world. He showed his architectural and travel views regularly in the major American and French exhibitions and museum annuals, including the Paris Salons, Pennsylvania Academy, National Academy of Design, Carnegie International, Corcoran Gallery, and Panama-Pacific International Exposition. His work is represented in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and White House, among many others.
In the early twentieth century, Cooper largely focused his lavish impressionist vision on the growing urban scene in Manhattan, while also creating important views of Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Chicago, St. Louis, and other cities. He became one of the pioneers of American impressionism in the architectural landscape genre and created a legacy of American city views during an era of rapid modernist growth.