Born in Augusta, Georgia, Emma Josephine Sibley Couper, also known as Mrs. B. King Couper, showed an early interest in art following an 1879 trip to Europe. She soon began with art lessons in a Charleston art school, but her interest in studying art led her to enroll at the Art Students League in New York. Beginning in 1888, she took classes with William Merritt Chase, Frank Vincent DuMond, and Kenyon Cox. In 1890, she went on a grand tour studying art of the old masters in Europe. In 1891, she married Butler King Couper of St. Simon’s, Georgia, and settled in Marietta. They moved to Spartanburg in 1900 where she raised her family and remained until 1918. She pursued her painting and gained recognition for her portraits. She was also active in community art organizations and was close to fellow artist Margaret Law. The two artists co-founded the Spartanburg Arts and Crafts Club, which led to what is now known as the Spartanburg County Museum of Art.
In 1907, Couper met the noted Southern artist, Elliott Daingerfield, whose work she included in the inaugural exhibition at the Spartanburg County Museum of Art and with whom she later studied. Following the death of her husband in 1913, and her children maturing, she moved to Montreat, North Carolina in 1922 and dedicated herself to painting. She concentrated on art, and her technique became more assured and fluid and with a bolder use of color. Her summers were spent in the artist colony of Gloucester, Massachusetts, and there she studied with modernist Hugh Henry Breckenridge.
Always looking to expand her knowledge, she traveled and embraced new opportunities, visiting France in 1929 and 1930, and in Paris she studied with André Lhote, who inspired her to attempt abstraction. She exhibited one of her experimental modernist works in the Salon D’Automne in Paris in 1930. In 1934, she decided to move to Tryon, North Carolina, which attracted a number of artists and there she formed a salon of painters.
Active in the Southern States Art League, the National Association of Women Painters and Sculptors, the Society of Independent Artists the Boston Art Club, and the National Arts Club, New York. Her work can be found in the collections of the Museum of Arts and Sciences, Macon; Spartanburg County Museum of Art, Currier Gallery of Art, Manchester New Hampshire; Columbia Museum of Art; Morris Museum of Art, Augusta; High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Brooklyn Art Museum.