An Eye for Nature : The Life and Art of William T. Cooper - Penny Olsen

An Eye for Nature

The Life and Art of William T. Cooper

By: Penny Olsen, Sir David Attenborough (Foreword by)


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In the work of artist William T.Cooper, platypuses swim in green underwater worlds, waves throw up blankets of spray, embers glow in the aftermath of a bushfire, a Thylacine emerges from the shadows, sniffing the air. But it is his paintings of birds which set Cooper apart—his raucous cockatoos, colourful parrots, animated turacos and flamboyantly displaying birds of paradise. Often placed in meticulously studied landscapes, these intricate bird portraits reveal Cooper’s close observation not only of his subjects’ appearance, but their habits, poses and behaviour. In this biography, Penny Olsen traces the path of Cooper’s life and art—from his childhood spent in the bush, to his teenage years as an apprentice taxidermist at Carey Bay Zoo and, later, to his work as a window dresser and landscape artist. She documents his fruitful partnership with wife and collaborator Wendy Cooper and his extensive travels in Australia and abroad in pursuit of his subjects.

About the Author

Dr. Penny Olsen is an ornithologist, researcher and writer with a passion for natural history. She completed her first science degree at the Australian National University in 1969 and worked as an Experimental Officer with the CSIRO. After taking time off to raise her children, she took on the role of President of the Australasian Raptor Association from 1984 to 1989. She went back to university to do a PhD on the breeding ecology of raptors, which she completed in 1991. Her distinguished career earned her the 1997 D.L. Serventy Medal for services to ornithology presented by the Royal Australasian Ornithologists Union. In 2011 she was made a Member of the Order of Australia 'for service to the conservation sciences as an author and researcher, and through the study and documentation of Australian bird species and their history'. She is currently an Associate Professor in the Research School of Biology at the Australian National University. She learnt in late 2013 that she was to be given special commendation from the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales for her body of work.

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