Ida Cooke (1909-1982)

A New Zealander by birth, Ida Cooke arrived in London in 1929 to study under Tonks at the Slade. Clearly a prodigious talent, she was awarded the Slade Prize for Life Painting in 1933 and the Orpen Bursary a year later. Deciding to settle in England permanently, Ida continued her studies while travelling across Europe. During this period she began to exhibit publicly, showing regularly at the Royal Academy and Accademia Italia delle Arti e del Lavoro, winning a Gold Medal at the latter.

She continued to paint and exhibit throughout the War while serving as a Fire Guard with the Civil Defence Service. In 1941 she exhibited at the first Civil Defence Artists’ exhibition at the Blitz damaged Cooling Galleries and her growing reputation led to an invitation to join the United Society of Artists shortly afterwards.

Post war, Ida built a flourishing portrait practice but in 1962 she journeyed to Austria to study under the German expressionist painter, Oscar Kokoschka at his School of Art at Salzburg. Perhaps as a consequence of her experience there, by the early 1960s she began to concentrate on genre paintings, inspired by characters and situations she encountered day to day. Her wry and somewhat satirical observations of human nature led to a distinctive series of imaginary scenarios in oils. The modernist aesthetic that permeates her work has proved timeless to collectors of the post war and current era and her paintings still feel contemporary and enjoyably accessible today.

For forty years she was a regular exhibitor at the New English Art Club, the Royal Academy and the Royal Society of British Artists. Her paintings were exhibited commercially at the leading galleries of the day, notably Clarges Gallery in Mayfair who held their first solo show for her in 1973.

“Ida Cooke’s style is instantly recognisable; this style does not happen overnight but evolves as a result of pain, toil and tears.  The background of her achievement shows impeccable credentials.  Born in New Plymouth, New Zealand, she came to London and studied at the Slade School of Art under Professor Tonks.  Anyone who knows or has read about that period will have realised that to succeed required talent, ability and hard work.  To have won the Slade Prize for Life Painting (1933) and Orpen Bursary (1934) is to be brilliant. The United Society of Artists regrets the sad loss of such a valuable Member, but can feel proud that her distinction adds to the prestige of the Society.”

Obituary from The United Society of Artists, 1982

Ida Cooke (1909-1982)

The Winch House, Cadgwith Cove


Ida Cooke (1909-1982)

The Race, 1970


Ida Cooke (1909-1982)



Ida Cooke (1909-1982)

Canal Scene