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Biographical entry Cooper, William Thomas (1934 - 2015)


Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia
10 May 2015
Topaz, Queensland, Australia
Bird artist and Ornithologist


William Cooper resided in the tropical rainforests of north Queensland. He was an internationally acclaimed bird artist who painted birds and wildlife in Australia and Papua New Guinea.


Display manager, menswear firm until he became a full-time painter at 30. Mentor was William Dobell. While painting a bird from a mounted specimen in the Australian Museum in 1968 he was noticed by Keith Hindwood (qv), who asked him to illustrate a book, A portfolio of Australian birds (published 1968), which made his reputation Other works he has illustrated include Kingfishers and Related Birds (6 volumes), Australian Parrots (1969) and Parrots of the World (1978), all by Joseph Forshaw (qv), and The Birds of Paradise: Paradisaedae (1998, by C B Frith (qv) and B M Beehler). His series of 60 paintings of bower birds and birds of paradise were reproduced as prints, with the originals being bought by the Government of Papua New Guinea.


Award - Gold Medal for distinction in natural history art, Academy of Natural Sciences (U.S.A.)
10 June 1994
Award - Appointed Officer of the Order of Australia (AO)

Published resources


  • Olsen, Penny, An eye for nature: the life and art of William T. Cooper (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 2014), 288 pp. Details



  • Olsen, Penny, An eye for nature: the life and art of William T. Cooper (2014)
    Clarkson, John, 'More than a portrait painter to the birds: William T. Cooper (1934-2015)', Australasian Systematic Botany Society Newsletter, 162/3, (2015), 37-41. Details
  • Olsen, Penny, An Eye for Nature: the Life and Art of William T. Cooper (2014)
    Kean, John, Historical Records of Australian Science, 25, (2014), 361-2. Details
  • Olsen, Penny, An eye for nature: the life and art of William T. Cooper (2014)
    McCarthy, David J., Australian field ornithology, 33, (2016), 38-9. Details

See also

  • Robin, Libby, The Flight of the Emu: a Hundred Years of Australian Ornithology 1901-2001 (Melbourne: Melbourne University Press, 2001), 492 pp. Details

Rosanne Walker and Helen Cohn