Robert Cottingham


Born in Brooklyn in 1935, Robert Cottingham served in the army as a mapmaker from 1955 to 1958 before studying at the Pratt Institute from which he received his BFA in 1963. After a five year long stint as an art director at advertisement agencies in New York and Los Angeles, Cottingham eventually committed himself to painting and by 1970 he had his first solo exhibition at O.K Harris Gallery in New York.

Although Cottingham is widely considered as a prominent figure in the photorealism movement, he rejects this label and would prefer to be viewed as a successor to the likes of realist painters Stuart Davis, Charles Demuth, Edward Hopper, and Charles Sheeler. His painting often shows depictions of street signs, building facades, shop-fronts, and marquees. The photographs of these that inspired his work were made possible by his annual trips to the USA from his home in London at that point in the 70s. His grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1974 allowed him to tour a multitude of cities in the U.S on greyhound buses taking thousands of images.

Cottingham never replicates an image, and will often make slight alterations to the original image in his paintings to satisfy their true meaning. A surreal aspect to his work is also displayed by his control over shadow, line, and light.

A major retrospective of his work was held at Butler Institute of Art, Youngstown, OH in 2016. His work is also in permanent collections at the Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, NY; Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Washington, D.C.; Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY; Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY; Philadelphia Museum of Art, Philadelphia, PA; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.; Tate Gallery, London, England; and Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY; among others.


Cottingham currently resides in Newtown, Connecticut.