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Robert Cottingham

20th Century Fox


Oil on canvas

 52″ x 72″ (132.1 x 182.9 cm)

Robert Cottingham

Empire (Cincinnati)


Oil on canvas

67″ x 41-1/2″ (170.2 x 105.4 cm)

Framed: 68″ x 42-1/2″ (172.7 x 108 cm)

Robert Cottingham (born 1935) is an American Photorealist painter and printmaker. He is regarded as one of the seminal figures of the Photorealist movement. Cottingham’s technical expertise and tightly cropped subject matter result in compositions that oscillate between the abstract and the iconic. Cottingham’s depictions of vintage signs, neon lights, and storefronts have a documentary quality that evokes the optimistic promise of modernism—a notion that has been fascinatingly complicated by the collective hindsight of the twenty-first century.

Robert Cottingham was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1935. He studied graphic design and advertising at the Pratt Institute from 1959–1963. While maintaining a career in advertising, Cottingham taught himself to paint in any spare time he could find: evenings, weekends, and even vacations. Although he started painting at 28, his early works demonstrate a high degree of finish. By 1968, with three exhibitions in Los Angeles, Cottingham finally decided to dedicate himself solely to art.

Although Cottingham lived abroad while stationed with the U.S. Army in Orleans, France from 1955­–1958 and in London from 1972–1978, he has always focused on the depiction of American iconography. While living in London, Cottingham received a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1974.

Cottingham served as an artist in residence at the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation in Colorado Springs in 1994 as well as the Center for Creative Youth in Middletown, Connecticut in 1987–1992. He also taught at the National Academy of Design in New York City in 1991 and the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles, California in 1969 and 1970. Cottingham received a retrospective exhibition at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 1998. In 2000 he joined the council of the National Academy of Design in New York City and currently sits on the Board of Directors for the Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art in Ridgefield, Connecticut.


“Starting in 2004, I produced numerous drawings and paintings based on images I had found in an old engineering textbook. I had been intrigued by mechanical drawings ever since my years at Brooklyn Technical High School, and these images quickly became the basis of an eight-year series that I titled COMPONENTS.

While most of these objects can be defined as machine parts, their individual functions are not always so apparent. It was this ambiguity that drew me to them. Each became the central issue of its own painting, identifiable as a three dimensional object but with no clear indication of its purpose.

Besides this investigation of form, the series deals with color in several ways. The earlier paintings are broader and more varied in their explorations of one hue against another. In the final group of canvases, the glossy black objects reflect the background colors in more subdued and, I think, richer tonalities.”

-Robert Cottingham, from the book Photorealism in the Digital Age © 2013

Citation: Bernarducci, Frank, Harris, Elizabeth K., and Meisel, Louis K. Photorealism in the Digital Age. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc., Publishers, 2013.

2018 – “Reflections, Ripples + Shadows,” Louis K. Meisel Gallery, New York, New York

2016 – “American Signs, Robert Cottingham,” IFAC Arts, New York, New York

2014 – “Photorealism: The Everyday Illuminated,” Jonathan Novak Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, California

2011 – “Robert Cottingham: Empire,” Forum Gallery, New York, New York

2008 – “Robert Cottingham: Components,” Forum Gallery, New York, New York

2005 – “Tandem Press: Robert Cottingham,” Barbara Krakow Gallery, Boston, Massachusetts

2005 – Galerie Patrice Trigano, Paris, France

2004 – “Robert Cottingham: Components,” Dieu Donné Gallery, New York, New York

2004 – “New Still Lifes,” Forum Gallery, New York, New York

2001 – “Still Lifes,” Forum Gallery, Los Angeles, California

2000 – “Still Lifes,” Forum Gallery, New York, New York

1998/99 – “Eyeing America: Robert Cottingham Prints,” National Museum of American Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.

1197/98 – “Hollywood Stills: House Portraits by Robert Cottingham,” Long Beach Museum of Art, Long Beach, California

1997 – “Robert Cottingham: An American Alphabet,” Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut

1996 – “Robert Cottingham: An American Alphabet,” Forum Gallery, New York, New York

1994 – Struve Gallery, Chicago, Illinois

1994 – Takada Gallery, San Francisco, California

1994 – “Robert Cottingham,” Triton Museum, Santa Clara, California

1994 – Harcourts Contemporary, San Francisco, California

1993 – “Robert Cottingham: Rolling Stock Series, Paintings, Prints,” Central Connecticut Statue University, New Britain, Connecticut

1993 – Marisa del Re Gallery, New york, New York

19912 – “Robert Cottingham: Rolling Stock Series,” Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio

1991 – Harcourts Contemporary, San Francisco, California

1990 – “Robert Cottingham: Rolling Stock Series,” Marisa del Rey Gallery, New York, New York

1989 – Fendrick Gallery, Washington, D.C.

1989 – Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer, New York, New York

1988 – Fendrick Gallery, Washington, D.C.

1987 – Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer, New York, New York

1986/90 – “Robert Cottingham: A Print Retrospective,” Springfield Art Museum, Springfield, Missouri; Travelled to: Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, Tennessee; Newlson-Atkins Museum of Art, Kansas City, Missouri; Museum of Art, University of Oklahoma, Norman, Oklahoma; Center Gallery, Bucknell University, Lewisburg, Pennsylvania; Davison Art Center, Wesleyan University, Middletown, Connecticut; Muscarelle Museum of Art, College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia; Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, New York

1985/86 – “Barrera-Rosa’s: Robert Cottingham,” The Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, Arkansas; Travelled to: Fendrick Gallery, Washington, D.C.; Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri

1985 – Reynolda House Museum of American Art, Winston-Salem, North Carolina

1984 – Coe Kerr Gallery, New York, New York

1983 – “The Photo-Realist Statement: Recent Paintings by Robert Cottingham,” Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, Kansas

1981 – Fendrick Gallery, New York, New York

1980 – Madison Art Center, Madison, Wisconsin

1979 – Delta Gallery, Rotterdam, Netherlands

1979 – Aldrich Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut

1978 – O.K. Harris Gallery, New York, New York

1976 – John Berggruen Gallery, San Francisco, California

1975 – Galerie de Gestlo, Hamburg, Germany

1975 – DM Gallery, London, United Kingdom

1974 – O.K. Harris Gallery, New york, New York

1971 – O.K. Harris Gallery, New york, New York

1970 – Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles, California

1969 – Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles, California

1968 -Molly Barnes Gallery, Los Angeles, California