Born in Canterbury, Thomas Sidney Cooper showed a marked interest in art from his earliest childhood, and wrote in his autobiography : “ The earliest recollection that I have is on one Sunday morning, when I was sketching the cathedral.”
At the age of twelve, he became assistant to a coach painter, an occupation he combined later with scene painting, whilst devoting his spare time to drawing and painting from nature. He always had a great confidence in his artistic ability, stating “I could not be bound as an apprentice for I had a mind above it.” In 1823 he went to London, working briefly at the British Museum, and becoming a student at the Royal Academy for a short time in 1824.
Money difficulties forced him to return to Canterbury, where he earned a living giving private art lessons and selling a few of his paintings. At the age of twenty four he travelled in Europe, settling in Brussels where he married and stayed for four years.
He became acquainted with the seventeenth century Dutch school and the Belgian animal painter, Verboeckhoven, who greatly influenced his style. On his return to London he soon gained a reputation for his pictures of cattle and sheep, which became extremely popular.
He was a prolific artist, gaining the record for consecutive exhibiting at the Royal Academy with 266 paintings shown between 1833 and 1902. He also exhibited at the British Institution, Royal Society of British Artists and the New Watercolour Society. His paintings are to be found in many collections, including those at Birmingham, Blackburn, Cardiff, Glasgow, Leeds, Leicester, Liverpool and London at the Victoria and Albert Museum, the Wallace Collection and the National Gallery.