COOKE, Edward William
(b. 1811, London, d. 1880, Groombridge)


English landscape and marine painter, and gardener, the second of the eleven children of George Cooke, engraver and print publisher, and his wife, Elizabeth Harriet Eglinton (1785-1882). He was educated at Grove House School, Woodford, Essex, before receiving artistic training in the studios of his father, uncle, and family friends, during which he became deeply versed in works of the early nineteenth-century landscapists.

He showed outstanding talent as a draughtsman. At the age of nine he made drawings for the Encyclopedia of Plants (1820) by the Scottish horticulturalist John Claudius Loudon, and at fourteen he helped Clarkson Stanfield with some of his commissions. In March 1828 the first four plates were published of his Fifty Plates of Shipping and Craft, a series of beautifully drawn and engraved studies of fishing boats and barges, beach scenes and harbours. He began painting in oils in 1833, took formal lessons from James Stark in 1834 and first exhibited at the Royal Academy and British Institution in 1835, by which time his style was essentially formed.

Cooke and several of his father's other pupils moved in the circle of Richard Parkes Bonington, whose watercolour style Cooke emulated. He showed a single-minded devotion to minutely observed portraits of smaller working craft, recording their appearance in every country he visited; his travels abroad included tours of France from 1833, the Netherlands from 1837, western Italy from 1845-46, Venice from 1850, Sweden and Denmark in 1853, Spain in 1861, and Egypt in 1874. He returned to the Netherlands regularly, studying the effects of the coastal landscape and light, as well as the works of the country's Old Masters, resulting in highly successful paintings.

He also had serious natural history and geological interests, being a Fellow of the Linnean Society, Fellow of the Geological Society and Fellow of the Zoological Society, and of the Society of Antiquaries. In the 1840s he helped his friend, the horticulturist, James Bateman fit out and design the gardens at Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire, in particular the orchids and rhododendrons. His geological interests in particular led to his election as Fellow of the Royal Society in 1863 and he became a Royal Academician the following year.