World-renowned bird artist's works to be displayed on the Tablelands

Wendy Cooper and Tablelands Regional Council mayor Joe Paronella unveil two unfinished works of the late William T Cooper. 
Photographer: Samuel Davis

Date published: 10th April 2017

Unfinished works from one of the world's greatest wildlife illustrators have been posthumously unveiled at the Tablelands Regional Gallery. 


William T Cooper’s 'Pink-eared Duck' and 'Burdekin Plum' were revealed to the public at a fundraising event last Friday evening before more than 100 guests and dignitaries.


Proceeds raised from the unveiling will go towards funding a new exhibition entitled 'The Vision and Passion of William T Cooper: A Retrospective', set to open at the gallery in September.


Mr Cooper, once described by Sir David Attenborough as the best ornithological illustrator in the world, died at his home in Malanda in 2015.


In 1993, the artist was the subject of Sir Attenborough’s TV documentary 'Portrait Painter to the Birds'.


A renowned art collector, Sir Attenborough also commissioned work from Mr Cooper and the pair became close friends.


Birdman - The art of William T Cooper from sarahscragg on Vimeo.

Mr Cooper's biographer, Penny Olsen, says the painter's passion for far north Queensland's rainforests shone through in his work. 


"Bill had a deep love of nature. He studied the birds and really knew them in minute detail," she says. 


"He went to a lot of trouble to get things right.


"For some of his big works he spent years on them. He had so much reference material.


"He would collect plants the birds fed on. Other times he would walk endlessly through the rainforest to find the exact branch to paint."



Justin Bishop of Kick Arts in Cairns and Mr Cooper’s wife, Wendy, are co-curating the exhibition featuring several paintings that have never been displayed together before.


Mr Bishop says the artworks will span almost the entire length of Mr Cooper’s illustrious career.


"We've been able to secure a piece coming all the way from Hobart," he says. 


"It's only been seen by very few people which is the Thylacine painting. 


"It’s a very special and significant painting and I’m looking forward to seeing it in the Tablelands."




Mr Cooper illustrated several books including 'A Portfolio of Australian Birds, Parrots of the World' and 'Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds'.


He and his wife also released 'Fruits of the Australian Tropical Rainforests' and 'Australian Tropical Fruits: A Field Guide'.


In 1994, Mr Cooper was awarded an Order of Australia for his contribution to art and history.


Tablelands Regional Gallery are seeking sponsors to support their upcoming exhibit of William T Cooper's work. For more information contact Gwyneth Nevard here.

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