This is the study of the activity and influence of one-time Brisbane art dealer and owner of the Moreton Galleries, John Cooper.
It traces his activity from the clouded beginnings in 1933 until he leaves the Moreton Galleries in August 1950, though the emphasis is upon the four years 1946-1950 when he operated the Moreton Galleries.
Although a study of one man's achievements and failures it is not essentially a biography. Cooper's practices and activities are set in the context of the wider art scene. This principally relates to Brisbane though for comparison purposes attempts are made to outline what was happening elsewhere in the country, particularly Sydney and Melbourne.
Particular emphasis is placed upon the Moreton Galleries period for it affords the greatest opportunity for study; material being more readily available for investigation. It also provides the clear example of the operation of a commercial gallery arguably the first of a type to be established in Brisbane.
A survey of the first six months of operation establishes key features of a trading pattern whilst close examination of four selected exhibitions provides insight into Cooper's choice of artist and the reaction of art buyers and the community. There follows an attempt to establish the question of the taste of the buyers and any influence Cooper may have had upon it.
An assessment of Cooper's influence with the press and the general changes to the art scene occasioned by his activity is attempted; changes to key areas of the art world of Brisbane are noted.
To understand in some detail how Cooper's trading affected the Q.N.A.G., an examination of their purchases during the decade 1'940-50 is made. Observations are made and conclusions drawn which generally reflect the state of affairs prevailing at the Art Gallery since its inception. Mention is made of the beginnings of change in the administration of the Gallery and the liberating effect it was beginning to have in the institution.
In an effort to round off the assessment of Cooper's personal contribution to art at that time, details of charitable and other non-commercial activities are provided. These support the notion that though a commercial dealer he had a genuine interest in art and a concern that this interest should be more widely shared by the community at large.
This study suggests that a commercial art dealer and gallery owner, for all the taste-making potential he may be seen to possess, is first and foremost in the business of making a living. Once established and successfully catering to the requirements of the market, he may be free to promote new styles of art, to press for greater public awareness but only at the risk of commercial failure.
Essentially this is an assessment of one man's attempt to walk that path and perhaps in the process, some light has been shed on a slice of Queensland's art history.