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Copley paintings wow Germans : or at least we hope

Press release   •   Mar 27, 2012 06:44 EDT

Every once in a while we like to highlight the work of an artist who left an indelible mark on art history. Sometimes their oil paintings left such a significant impact that they became household names: Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Da Vinci are some examples of superstar artists. Others didn’t have such a large impact, but nevertheless left changes that were worthy of examination in their own right. Take, for example, William N. Copley, born January 24, 1919 to May 7, 1996. Copley, more popularly known as CPLY, was a writer, painter, collector, publisher, art entrepreneur and patron to the art world who forever has a place in American and world history, especially in the Surrealist and Pop Art movements.

Copley was born in New York City in 1919 and experienced a touch of fate when he was adopted by millionaire publisher Ira C. Copley and his wife, who owned 16 newspaper companies in San Diego and Chicago. He thus received an elite education at Phillips Andover and Yale University, which was briefly interrupted by the war. Upon returning from WWII, he worked as a reporter, and then began experimenting in art after meeting John Ployardt, an animator at Walt Disney Studios who was his brother-in-law. From this connection Copley was introduced to painting, particularly Surrealism, and it was at this time that Ployardt and Copley opened a Los Angeles gallery to exhibit Surrealist works, which was just beginning as a movement.

Copley painted part-time as he ran his father’s business and his own network of galleries. His oeuvre can be split into decades of similar motifs and styles. In the early 1950s, his work dealt with satirical images of typical American symbols; in the late 50s and 60s it moved to more Pop Art styled images and presentation as the artist found inspiration in the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein. Copley’s style would change again in the 1970s with the sexual revolution, his work becoming more seductive and erotic. This was his most controversial phrase, as many in American responded with disdain at what they considered was pornography; however, Copley was comparatively better received in Europe.

If Copley is your guy, then be sure to attend a comprehensive retrospective of more than 80 Copley oil paintings at the Frieder Burda Collection in Germany. Curated by Götz Adriani, it focuses on the lifelong friendships the artist developed out of the contacts he established with other artists, such as Marcel Duchamp and Man Ray, and how this influenced him and his canvas artwork. The exhibition will also take a close look at the way Copley’s paintings examine the erotic interplay between women and men, from all the irrationality of love and bad behaviour, to the excitement over celebrities and the self-assurance found in brand names. If you have some spare Euro in your pocket, the exhibition catalogue (English/German) is worth purchasing: it has contributions by Götz Adriani, Georg Baselitz, Billy Copley, Judith Irrgang, Man Ray, Andy Warhol, as well as numerous previously unpublished essays by the artist himself.


Olivia Preston is passionate about everything on paintings and arts. When she's not having fun she writes on oil paintings. For more information on and oil painting reproductions you can visit http://www.cheapoilpainting.com