Edward William Cooke was an English botanical draughtsman, marine artist and gardener active in the 19th century.
He was born on 27 March 1811 in Chapel Street, Pentonville, London, England the second of eleven children of the engraver and print publisher George Cooke (born 1781, died 1834) and his wife, Elizabeth Harriet Eglinton (born 1785, died 1882).
Cooke was educated at Grove House School in Woodford, Essex, England and began his artistic training in the studios of his father, his uncle William Bernard, and family acquaintances.
As a botanical illustrator, he began drawing in the Hackney nurseries of Conrad Loddiges & Sons at the age of 9. He later assisted his father with aquatints for the Loddiges's Botanical Cabinet from 1817 to 1833.
As a marine artist, Cooke worked under the painter Clarkson Stanfield making drawings of nautical details and studied onboard the West Indiaman Thetis and HMS Agamemnon.
In 1829 he published Fifty Plates of Shipping and Craft. This was followed byTwelve Plates of Coast Sketches: Brighton in 1830 and The British Coast in 1831. In 1831 all three works were republished as Sixty-Five Plates of Shipping and Craft and in 1833 he and his father produced Views of the Old and the New London Bridges.
In 1833 Cooke began painting in oils. He took formal lessons from James Stark in 1834. Amongst the picture dealers he earned the nicknames 'Dutch Cooke' and 'Venetian Cooke', often inscribing the name 'Van Kook' on boats in his scenes of Netherlandish coasts and waterways and 'II Lagunetto' on craft portrayed in his scenes of the Adriatic Sea and lagoons.
He emulated nature and the works of Richard Parkes Bonington and began exhibiting at the Royal Academy and the British Institution from 1835. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1851 and was made a Royal Academician in 1863.
On 13 June 1840 Cooke married Jane Loddiges (born 1812, died 1843), the younger daughter of nurseryman George Loddiges (born 1786, died 1846) whose drawings of the Loddiges' nursery he had earlier assisted his father to engrave. Together they had three children: a daughter who died in infancy and two sons.
He travelled abroad frequently, touring, according to John Munday, France from 1833, the Netherlands from 1837, western Italy from 1845 to 1846, Venice from 1850, Sweden and Denmark in 1853, Spain in 1861, and Egypt in 1874.
As a gardener, Cooke was a collector of ferns and used his artistic vision to group plants. He designed some of the features of Biddulph Grange in Staffordshire, England for his friend James Bateman in the 1840s and famously removed the topsoil to reveal the rocks at his own garden, surrounding the house built for him by Norman Shaw in 1868, at Glen Andred, in Groombridge, Sussex, England.
He was keenly interested in geology, photography, microscopy and natural history, publishing his Entwicklungsgeschichte—grotesque animals in 1872 and becoming a Fellow of the Linnaean, Geological and Zoological Societies and the Society of Antiquaries.
Cooke died at Glen Andred from liver and lung cancer on 4 January 1880. On 10 January he was buried at the church in Groombridge. Sales of his remaining works were held on 22 May 1880 and 11 March 1882 at Christies in London.
Artists' Papers Register, Artists' Papers Register, 'Person Authority Record, GB/NNAF/P6422, Cooke, Edward William (1811-1880)' <http://www.apr.ac.uk/artists/searches/artistrecs.asp?ARID=GB/NNAF/P6422> [accessed 2 January 2008]
Hadfield, Miles, Robert Harling and Leonine Highton, British Gardeners: A Biographical Dictionary (London: A. Zwemmer Ltd., 1980), p. 79.
Hayden, A.R.P., ‘Loddiges, George (1786–1846)’, rev., Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/37683> [accessed 2 January 2008]
Munday, John, ‘Cooke, Edward William (1811–1880)’, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) <http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/article/6160> [accessed 2 January 2008]
-Edward William Cooke, R.A., F.R.S., F.S.A., F.L.S., F.Z.S., F.G.S., 1811-1880 : A Man of His Time (Woodbridge: Antique Collectors' Club, 1996).
National Archives, National Register of Archives, Person Details, 'Cooke, Edward William (1811-1880) Marine Painter , GB/NNAF/P139181' <http://www.nationalarchives.gov.uk/nra/searches/SubjectView.asp?ID=P6422> [accessed 2 January 2008]
National Portrait Gallery, Search the Collection, 'Edward William Cooke (1811-1880), Marine painter and gardener' <http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?LinkID=mp82025&desc=&eDate=&grp=&lDate=&medium=photograph&name=&occ=2%3BAnimals+and+Birds&search=as> [accessed 2 January 2008]
Royal Academy of Arts Collection, Inspiration, British Art and Architecture, 'Artist of the Month, June, Edward William Cooke, R.A.' <http://www.racollection.org.uk/ixbin/hixclient.exe?submit-button=search&search-form=artist/artist_month_june2005.html&_IXSESSION_=BXvyuA_0Ixr> [accessed 2 January 2008]