William N. Copley
William N. Copley
William N. Copley (1919–1996), is celebrated today for his unique contribution to post-war painting, providing a singular connection between European Surrealism and American Pop Art. With subjects ranging from everyday objects such as umbrellas, flags and cars, to universal morality tales, exploring themes of love, adultery and death, Copley gave form to his fantasies and fetishes through strong black outlines and a self-taught, figurative style. Not only a painter, but a writer, gallerist, collector, publisher, and patron to the arts, his colourful, animated works abound with playful, baroque patterns, visual puns, and bawdy ballads, combining politics, sex and satire, under one style, and one signature: CPLY.
‘The visual vocabulary of Copley begins with the verb “I love” and from there it leads through colourful adjectives and staccato interjections to the great crossword puzzle in which words and images simmer together in a process of distillation. Copley, the cordon bleu in all questions of erotic chemistry, stirs into his pot the right ingredients of humour, black as the guillotine and the grand piano, red white and blue as the flag as underwear, a rainbow in fact that terminates in a pot de chambre. His insight into life, which goes beyond his enjoyment even of its absurdities, gives him the vision to express himself as a painter, that is a poet in visual imagery.’
R. Penrose, ‘William Nelson Copley’, first published on the occasion of an exhibition at the Galleria Arturo Schwarz, Milan, 1962, as reprinted in William N. Copley. Heed, Greed, Trust, Lust, exh.cat., Hannover: Kestner-Gesellschaft, 1995, p. 201.
Image: Battle of the Sexes No. 2, 1974, acrylic on cotton, 160.2 x 286.4 cm.; 63 1/8 x 112 3/4 in.; 161.7 x 288 x 4.5 cm.; 63 5/8 x 113 3/8 x 1 3/4 in. (framed)