Colin Campbell Cooper - Randolph Street, Chicago (1903)
Colin Campbell Cooper - Glass Train Shed, Broad Street Station, Philadelphia (ca. 1910)
As a special treat, for today’s December Double I would like to present two works by Colin Campbell Cooper, ‘Randolph Street, Chicago’ and ‘Broad Street Station, Philadelphia’. Cooper was an American painter who created many wonderful views of New York City and other notable metropolitan areas. He worked in an Impressionist style which he used to render the city’s steam and smoke in a beautiful light. I always enjoy seeing these techniques used for distinctly American views. The murky blue background in 'Glass Train Shed' reminds me of a classic Monet, and ‘Randolph Street’ utilizes a vibrant orange, allowing one building to prominently stand out against the muted grey of the surrounding structures, among them a station serving the city’s famous elevated train line. Both of these paintings capture the atmosphere of the city while exhibiting the artist's unique talent for light and color.
Cooper's works also demonstrate a natural understanding of city spaces. While 'Randolph Street' is rigidly framed within its architectural elements, recalling Canaletto's views of Venice (for which painter utilized the camera obscura), Cooper’s composition in 'Glass Train Shed' is more relaxed, centering the subject while providing room for observation around the centerpiece building. I’m intrigued by all the details included within this painting, particularly the different modes of transport, such as the single car riding on the otherwise empty dirt road alongside the train shed. Works such as this serve as a wonderful capsule of early 20th century life.