George Cope

1855 - 1929

Figures in a Forest

George Cope

Best known for "trompe l'oeil" or highly realistic still life painting, especially hanging game, George Cope spent most of his life around the Brandywine River Valley in West Chester, Pennsylvania. In the 1870s, however, he traveled for four years to the Far West including the Pacific Coast and the Plains. He was an avid hunter and outdoorsman.

Cope began his formal training in 1876 with German landscape painter Hermann Herzog, but in 1887 switched to "trompe l'oeil" still-lifes as his primary subject when he saw the success with this style of other artists such as William Harnett. This subject matter was new to the United States and was introduced in the mid 19th century by German emigres artists who had been much influenced by the Dutch still-life tradition.

When Cope returned to Pennsylvania, he taught in a local school and produced paintings that were collected in Philadelphia by wealthy collectors, but after the turn of the century, he was largely forgotten. He died poor and neglected. One of the reasons was that he continued into the 20th century painting primarily in his trompe l'oeil style, a style that became very outmoded. As he got more and more determined in the face of modernism to maintain precision, it could be said that his later still-lifes are almost chilling in their petrified precision.