Although Robert Cottingham is known as a painter and printmaker, at first glance one might think he was a photographer. His works depict things such as signs and neon lights in the photo-realistic tradition. The theme throughout Cottingham’s artworks tends to be the American lifestyle and surroundings.

Cottingham’s Choice of Subject Matter

When looking at Cottingham’s seemingly commercially focused prints and paintings, it comes as no surprise that the artist started out working in advertising. The artist studied at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. After graduating, he worked in advertising for five years, but he soon decided to focus on his art.

But what might actually be rather surprising, is that the artist has stated that his fascination with signs, buildings and other objects that can often be seen in his paintings wasn’t influenced mainly by his short-lived career in advertising. Cottingham’s choice of subject matter dates back to his love of signs and neon lights in Time Square when he was still a child. Even then, he loved art, and he enjoyed finding this hidden art in strange objects that were everywhere around him.

Stuart Davis, Charles Sheeler, Edward Hopper and Charles Demuth have largely inspired many artistic his choices, especially regarding his choice of American themes.

In 1990, Cottingham was elected as an Associate Academician into the National Academy of Design. Not long after this, a retrospective of his work was held at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Commercial signs are amazing. Here are these elaborate, monumental structures designed solely to tell you that this is where you can buy a hamburger or pack of cigarettes.… All that effort, all the pomposity just to sell you something. And yet, they are an heroic attempt by someone to leave his mark.… As an artist, I use the configurations as the basis for constructing a painting.… If the final work can be read on both levels—as a formal painting…and at the same time as a depiction of a sign—the work approaches success.”
—Robert Cottingham

Artworks and Prints

Although he doesn’t really approve the of the term, Cottingham is definitely considered an influential photorealistic artists of his time. His works are astoundingly realistic.

It’s interesting to note that Cottingham has thrived in creating artworks in many different ways, and often creates the same image using a different medium. He’s used oil, acrylics, watercolor, ink and graphite to create his artworks and has enjoyed producing interesting prints using various methods such as woodcut, linoleum cut, etching and lithography.

The artist often starts his paintings from a photograph and goes to great lengths to get shapes as precise as possible by drawing sketches and even using grids to compare shapes and lines during his creative process. He has continued to perfect these techniques throughout his career.

And with such flawless accuracy in his photorealistic style, it isn’t hard to see why Cottingham has been widely popular among many art collectors.

His prints and paintings, which are often of places that look like they’ve been abandoned for quite some time, have a alluring sense of charm to them. If you’re interested in acquiring works by Robert Cottingham, feel free to visit Vertu or contact us online.