Friday, April 27, 2012

Cowper, Frank Cadogan

The Blue Bird
oil on canvas
34 7/8 x 28 in. (88.4 x 71.1 cm.)
private collection

Frank Cadogan Cowper (1877 - 1958) was an English painter and illustrator of portraits, historical and literary scenes, described as "The last of the Pre-Raphaelites". He worked in both watercolours and oils, and also worked as book illustrator. He contributed to a mural in the Houses of Parliament in 1910.

The most remarkable thing about him was the complete change in his style between his earlier and later work. Without any comparison in rank between the 2 artists, the change was as complete and as apparently inexplicable as it was between the early and late Corot. Cowper begins as a painter of romantic subject pictures in the Pre-Raphaelite manner; he ended as a painter of pretty women in what may be called the chocolate box manner.

The subject of this picture comes from a fairy tale entitled The Blue Bird. The heroine of the tale, a princess, was locked in a castle turret after her Prince Charming had refused to marry her ugly sister. He had been changed by a sorceress into a blue bird, who brought jewels to his true love as a token of affection. The Princess eventually used these jewels to buy her way to freedom. The curse was then lifted, and the couple lived happily ever after.