'Dr. Clive Forster-Cooper, F.R.S.' bears inscription on label on reverse oil on canvas 86.3 x 106.7cm (34 x 42in).
PROVENANCE : The sitter's family.
EXHIBITED : London, Royal Academy, 1945, no.165.
London, Tate Gallery, Feb 17 - Mar 28, 1982 and at the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Apr 17 - May 16, 1982, no. 26, illustrated.
LITERATURE : Richard Morphet, Catalogue of a loan exhibition held at the Tate Gallery, Feb 17 - Mar 28, 1982 and at the Ferens Art Gallery, Hull, Apr 17 - May 16, 1982.
Educated at Rugby School and Trinity College, Cambridge, Clive Forster-Cooper was an eminent vertebrate palaetologist. He visited Bugti Hills near Dera Bugti, Baluchistan (Pakistan) in 1910 and 1911 and discovered fossil Rhinoceros Baluchitherium (the oldest and most primitive rhinoceros) there. His personal collections included large amounts of material which partially founded the fossil vertebrates collections of Cambridge University Museum of Zoology. They represent key material that has been used to interpret the evolutionary development and radiation of the fishes, reptiles and early mammals.
He became a Fellow of the Royal Society, 1936 and awarded Sc D in 1938. As Director of the Natural History Museum from 1938-1947, Forster-Cooper lived in the Museum, sleeping in his office, ensuring the survival of the collections despite severe bomb damage in 1940 and 1945. He was knighted in 1946.
Described as modest and shy, he appreciated paintings and was an ambidextrous draughtsman of some skill (there are pages of sketches by him in the collection of the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge).
In the footnote in the Tate exhibition catalogue Richard Morphet writes :-
'Through Sir Gerald Kelly, a mutual friend, Frampton had met Forster-Cooper at the Royal Academy. They were thus already aquainted when they met again in the Natural History Museum (of which Forster-Cooper was director) during Frampton's work there on no. 25 (a triple portrait commissioned by the War Artists Advisory Committe, now in the Imperial War Museum). Painted in the same museum, this picture was not a commission, but started as a sketch and steadily developed into a more ambitious work. It was bought by the sitter on completion. Praised in letters by Sir Gerald Kelly and by Mrs. Image, sister of Stanley Spencer, it was a work which Frampton particularly enjoyed painting. It was also (to date) his last.
Sir Clive Forster-Cooper (1880-1947) was a distinguished palaentologist, museum director, teacher and public administrator. After early voyages investigating the flora and fauna of the Indian Ocean he became interested in 1907 in fossil mammals, making important collecting expeditions to Baluchistan. From 1914 to 1938 he was first Superintendent and then Director of the University Museum of Zoology at Cambridge which 'with very small funds, he revolutionized....and made it a modern teaching museum....'. University Lecturer and then Reader in Vertebrata, he was centrally concerned in the creation of a new University Library....He was also a Syndic of the Fitzwilliam Museum....
Frampton's portrait shows some of Forster-Cooper's plans, inscribed in his own hand, for rearrangement of the Museum. An expert on the making of casts from prehistoric specimens, and with a special interest in the dentition and skulls of various species, Forster-Cooper is shown working with models of skulls and jaws, and of the cheek teeth of various Mesozoic mammals. The book in front of him is Vol. II of Parker and Haswell Text Book of Zoology, in an edition (its sixth, 1940) revised by him. It is open at pp. 382-3 which contain illustrations of the skulls of Permian and Triassic 'mammal-like reptiles', the extinct animals from which mammals are supposed to have evolved. The models on the table represent real and hypothetical animals and are intended to show stages in the transition from reptiles to mammals. Sir Clive is seen, brush in hand, about to apply colour from the paint tray in front of him to make clear the jaw articulation, which changed from one bone to another in the reptile/mammal transition. He was ambidextrous, and often drew with his right hand while colouring with his left. A gifted draughtsman, he made many attractive topographical drawings and etchings. It seems curiously appropriate that (as the tips of the models of teeth make clear) Frampton's last painting should represent the act of applying paint in discreet and dispersed blocks of solid colour, a procedure crucial in the effect of his own work. This painting, with its remarkable realisation of string, sealing wax, 'red' tape, liquids, glass and metal and their reflections and distortions, instruments, a postage stamp, a plant and a gifted individual, intensifies one's regret that Frampton has not produced still more.'