Colin Campbell Cooper was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1856. Inspired by the art he saw at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition, he began his studies at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts under Thomas Eakins and continued at the Académie Julian and Ecole Delecluse in Paris. He spent much time traveling and painting throughout Europe; however, many of the paintings from this time were lost in a fire in 1896.
From 1895 to 1898, Cooper was an instructor of watercolor at the Drexel Institute in Philadelphia, and then moved to New York City in 1902, from where he and his artist wife Emma Lampert traveled the world in search of subject matter. Architecture and street scenes became his specialty, and he is particularly known for a series of canvases depicting the modern skyscraper.
The Cooper’s first traveled to California in 1915 to attend the Pacific-Panama and Panama-California Expositions, and Cooper moved there in 1921 following Emma’s death. He became dean of the Santa Barbara School for the Arts, and maintained a home in the city until his own death in 1937.