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American Treasures at the Fenimore Art Museum

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Record 42/116
Copyright New York State Historical Association and/or The Farmers' Museum, Inc.
Object ID N0144.1977
Title William Cooper (1754-1809)
Artist Stuart, Gilbert
Object Name Painting
Early Date 1794
Late Date 1797
Exhibit label line3 William Cooper (1754-1809), the father of novelist James Fenimore Cooper, was born in Smithfield (now Somerton), Pennsylvania. He received little education, worked as a wheelwright in Byberry, Pennsylvania, and then became a merchant in Burlington, New Jersey. In the 1780s, he turned to land speculation. Through energy, self-confidence, and business acumen, he was remarkably successful. Within 20 years, he acquired a fortune and is credited with the settlement of 750,000 acres, including the site of Cooperstown, which he founded in 1786. (Note the street plan of Cooperstown shown rolled in his hand.) After moving his family to the town in 1790, William Cooper was made a judge in 1791 and was elected to Congress as a Federalist in 1794 and again in 1798.

Gilbert Stuart was the leading portrait painter in the United States from the 1790s until his death in 1828. He painted most of the early leaders of the country, and his portraits of the first five presidents, particularly that of George Washington, are still their best-known images today. This portrait was probably painted in 1794 in Philadelphia, then the seat of Congress, as it resembles several other paintings done at that time.
Description Portrait of William Cooper, seated and holding a street plan of Cooperstown, by Gilbert Stuart. Marks: Red and white paper label on reverse on wood frame: "Given to my son/Henry S. Fenimore Cooper/on his return from the/War in 1919/James Fenimore Cooper." Paper label at top center of frame: "39 Gilbert Stuart 1755-1828 William Cooper of Cooperstown oil on canvas/35x27,/lent by Dr. Henry S.F. Cooper." Top reverse small paper label: "Yale University Art Gallery/Cooper/TR344/Cat 17."
Classification Academic Art--Painting/Drawing--Portraits--Human
Dimensions H-36 W-28 inches
Material Oil on canvas

Prior written permission is required for any reproduction, redistribution, publication, or other use of the images in any media, including but not limited to, printed or electronic media. Contact the Office of the Registrar, New York State Historical Association, PO Box 800, Cooperstown, NY 13326, (607) 547-1444, to request permission.    
Last modified on: November 04, 2005