William Nelson Copley  (American, 1919-1996) 

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William Nelson Copley (American, January 24, 1919–May 7, 1996) was a painter and patron of the arts of some renown whose late Surrealist works have been seen as an early part of the American Pop Art movement of the 1950s and 1960s. Copley didn't enter the art world as a painter; instead, he became a patron to the arts in 1947. At this time, he opened an art gallery in Beverly Hills to display Surrealist Art, after discovering the Surrealist movement on a trip to Mexico. In his gallery, Copley displayed the works of artists including Rene Magritte (Belgian, 1898–1967), Max Ernst (German, 1891–1976), Yves Tanguy (French, 1900–1955), Roberto Matta (Chile 1911–2002), Joseph Cornell (1903–1972), and Man Ray (American 1890–1976). During the single year of the gallery's operation, Copley painted part-time, turning to full-time painting once the galley closed from lack of sales.

After the close of the gallery, the artist moved to Paris. During the 1950s and 1960s, while living and working in Paris, Copley painted a collection of Surrealist work featuring classic American images presented with humorous and ironic undertones. The first exhibition of his work was in 1951, in Los Angeles at Royer's Book Shop. This exhibition was followed by further showings in New York, Venice, Paris, and London. Copley’s paintings were a combination of the major influences on his art; he mixed Mexican and American Folk Art with the Modern Surrealist look to create the early Pop Art look for which he has become noted. In the 1970s, his work continued to evolve, featuring more erotic content. In 1974, Copley exhibited this new line of work, calling the exhibition CPLY X-Rated. Though his new work received little recognition in the United States, it encountered a wider appeal when exhibited in Europe.

Copley's paintings have been widely exhibited, appearing at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Tate Gallery in London, and the Art Institute of Chicago. As a patron of the arts, he began the William and Noma Copley Foundation in 1953. The foundation, which later changed its name to the Cassandra Foundation, provided small grants for artists. The foundation also gave the last work of foundation board member and painter Marcel Duchamp (French 1887–1968), the painting L'Etant Donnes, to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Copley's paintings were primarily acrylics on linen and canvas, and his writings included the essay Portrait of the Artist as a Young Art Dealer as well as the news columns he wrote as a columnist for his father's newspapers. The artist died on May 7, 1996.

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William Nelson Copley, USLTA FRST HLLS (US Lawn Tennis Association Forest Hills), 22c

 

William Nelson Copley
USLTA FRST HLLS (US Lawn Tennis Association Forest Hills), 22c
1980

Silvan Faessler Fine Art
William Nelson Copley, U.S. Female Olympic Equestrian Team, Moscow 1980, 9c

 

William Nelson Copley
U.S. Female Olympic Equestrian Team, Moscow 1980, 9c
1980

Silvan Faessler Fine Art
William Nelson Copley, NTNL BXNG WEEK (Northern Texas Northern Louisiana Boxing Week), 33c

 

William Nelson Copley
NTNL BXNG WEEK (Northern Texas Northern Louisiana Boxing Week), 33c
Silvan Faessler Fine Art
William Nelson Copley, July 5

 

William Nelson Copley
July 5
1962

Paul Kasmin Gallery
William Nelson Copley, Untitled

 

William Nelson Copley
Untitled
1970

Paul Kasmin Gallery
William Nelson Copley, Untitled

 

William Nelson Copley
Untitled
1974

Paul Kasmin Gallery
William Nelson Copley, Stonehenge

 

William Nelson Copley
Stonehenge
1990

Paul Kasmin Gallery
William Nelson Copley, Homage to W.C. Fields

 

William Nelson Copley
Homage to W.C. Fields
1982

Paul Kasmin Gallery
William Nelson Copley, July 5th

 

William Nelson Copley
July 5th
1982

Paul Kasmin Gallery
Past auction results (360)  View All
William Nelson Copley, Il est minuit, Docteur

 

William Nelson Copley
Il est minuit, Docteur, 1961
oil on canvas

 

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William Nelson Copley, Ein Paar beim Krocket-Spiel

 

William Nelson Copley
Ein Paar beim Krocket-Spiel, 1992
ink and black chalk on cardboard

 

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William Nelson Copley, Untitled

 

William Nelson Copley
Untitled, 1967
India ink on paper

 

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1919   Born: New York, NY
1932 - 1936   Studied at the Phillips Academy in Andover, MA
1936 - 1938   Studied at Yale University, CT
1942 - 1946   Military service in Africa and Italy
1947   Opened his own gallery in Los Angeles
1947 - 1948   Directed Copley Galleries in Beverly Hills, CA (with John Ployardt). Exhibit: Magritte, Matta, Joseph Cornell, Man Ray, Tanguy, Max Ernst
1948   Founded Copley Galleries with John Ployardt Beverly Hills, CA
1951   Went to Paris with Man Ray and stayed to live
1961   Returned to New York City
1992   Moved to Key West, FL
1996   Died: Key West, FL
2012   Copley, Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany (solo)
2012   Works 1948 - 1983, Galerie von Braunbehrens, Munich, Germany (solo)
2011   WILLIAM N. COPLEY und ANDREAS SLOMINSKI – X-RATED, Me, Collectors Room, Berlin
2011   X-RATED, Sadie Coles HQ, London (solo)
2011   See Yourself As Lovers See You, Galerie Klaus Gerrit Friese, Stuttgart, Germany (solo)
2010   X-RATED, Paul Kasmin Gallery, New York (solo)
2010   Die Bilder tun was mit mir..., Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
2010   Die Sammlung Christian Zacharias: Das Haus und die Unendlichkeit Fondation de l´Hermitage, Lausanne, Switzerland
2009   Galerie Klaus Gerrit Friese, Stuttgart, Germany (solo)
El Sourdog Hex, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Linn Lühn, Cologne, Germany (solo)
And Other Essays, Bard College, Annandale-on Hudson, New York, NY
Exile on Mail St., Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands
Jr and Son’s, Zach Feuer Gallery, New York
2008   Diana und Aktaion: der verbotene Blick auf die Nacktheit, museum kunst palest, Dusseldorf, Germany
Karl Bohrmann- William N. Copley, Galerie Klaus Gerrit Freise, Stuttgart, Germany
Carte Blanche III: “Gedichte der Fakten”: Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Arend und Brigitte Oetker, GfZK-Galerie fur Zeitgenossische Kunst, Lepzig, Germany
Liebe, Love, Paare, Gustav-Lubcke-Museum, Hamm, Germany
Museum im Kulterspeicher, Wurzburg: Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany
Mirror, Mirror, Edward Thorpe Gallery, New York, NY
2007   Linn Lühn, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Deutsche und Amerikanische Malerei: Aus der Sammlung Freider Burda, Museum Freider Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
Rockers Island: Olbricht Collection, Museum Folkwang, Essen, Germany
Sixties! Art, Fashion, Design, Film and Photography, Gemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The Netherlands
AFFINITIES, Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, Germany
2006   Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Galerie manus presse/Klaus Gerrit Friese, Stuttgart, Germany (solo)
Ele-Mental - David Nolan Gallery, New York City, NY
Six Feet Under: Autopsie unseres Umgangs mit Toten, Kunstmuseum Bern, Bern, Switzerland
Models and Prototypes, Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MO
L’Amateur d’estampes, Musee des Beaux-Arts, Tourcoing, France
Collage Effect, 1301PE, Los Angeles, CA
Group Show, Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY
2005   Galerie Onrust, Amsterdam, the Netherlands (solo)
Internationale Zeichner - Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany
Bilderwechsel III – Amerikanische Malerei , Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
2004   Galerie Daniel Blau, Munich, Germany (solo)
Mamco-Musèe d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, Switzerland (solo)
Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, IL (solo)
FUNNY CUTS - Cartoons und Comics in der zeitgenössische Kunst - Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany
Eröffnungsausstellung Sammlung Frieder Burda - Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, Germany
Sammlung Frieder Burda - Eröffnungsausstellung, Staatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden, Germany
Christmas Art Gifts, Artiscope, Brussels, Belgium
Baume, Galerie Biedermann, Munich, Germany
2003   Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
BAWAG Foundation, Vienna (Easy to Read Storybook)
Johann Konig, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Imagine - Selections from the permanent collection, Museum of Contemporary Art - North Miami (MOCA), Miami, FL
2001 Kunst Sammeln I: Werke zeitgenossischer Kunst aus den Sammlungen von Cramm, Falckenburg, Kalkmann, Kunstverein Bad Salzdetfurth e.V., Bodenburg, Germany
Museum unserer Wunsche, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
2002   Drawings 1956-1994, Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany (solo)
2001   Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY
Bonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, the Netherlands (solo)
2000   Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Prints Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY
Im Gegenuber: Landschaften, Stilleben, Portraits, Galerie von Braunbehrens, Munich, Germany
1999   Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany (solo)
L.A.C., Lieu d'Art Contemporain, Sigean, France (solo)
Galerie Daniel Blau, Munich, Germany (solo)
Herning Kunstmuseum, Herning, Germany (solo)
1998   Galerie Lelong, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
Galerie Onrust, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (solo)
Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Summer Group Show. Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York Imagined World. David Nolan Gallery, New York, NY
1997   Ulmer Museum, Ulm, Germany (solo)
Galerie Kurt Schafer, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Magie der Zahl in der Kunst des 20. Jahrhunderts, Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart, Germany
Spiral Village, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The Netherlands
1996   Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany (solo)
Hommage a Copley, Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany
Think, Galerie Brigitte Ihsen, Cologne, Germany
Disegni americani degli anni ottanta: 15 artisti. Galleria Milano, Milan, Italy
1995   Retrospective, Kestner-Gesellshaft, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
Galerie Lelong, Zurich, Switzerland (solo)
Galerie Kurt Schafer, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Galerie Zell am See, Schloss Rosenberg, Austria (solo)
Galerie Michael, Heidelberg, Germany (solo)
Galerie Brigitte Ihsen, Cologne, Germany
Bunnies - A Group Show, Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY
Drawing the line: Reappraising Drawing Past and Present, Southampton City Art Gallery, Southampton; Manchester City Art Galleries; Ferens Art Gallery; Hull; Whitechapel Art Gallery, London
1994   Nolan/Eckman Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany (solo)
Galerie Fred Jahn and Nolan/Eckman Gallery, Art Basel, Germany (solo)
Galerie Klewan, Munich, Germany (solo)
Galerie Heike Curtze, Vienna, Austria (solo)
Old Glory: The American Flag in Contemporary Art, Cleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OH
1993   Galerie Zell am See, Schloss Rosenberg, Austria (solo)
Haus Am Lutzowplatz, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany (solo)
1992   Galleria Peccolo, Livorno, Italy (solo)
Galleria Milano, Milan, Italy (solo)
1991   David Nolan Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, Germany (solo)
Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY & Chicago, IL (solo)
Galerie Klewan, Munich, Germany (solo)
1990   Galerie Klewan, Munich, Germany (solo)
Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
1989   Bilderstreit: Widerspruch, Einheit und Fragment in der Kunst seit 1960, Museum Ludwig in den Rheinhallen der Kolner Messe, Cologne, Germany
1988   Galerie 1900/2000, Paris, France (solo)
Gran Pavese, The Flag Project, MuHKA Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp, Belgium
Roger Brown, William Copley, Duncan Hannah. Gloria Luria Gallery, Miami, Florida
1987   Kewenig Galerie, Frechen-bachem, Germany (solo)
Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1986   The Tomb of the Unknown Whore, installation, New Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NY (solo)
Roger Brown, William Copley, Duncan Hannah. Gloria Luria Gallery, Miami, FL
Europa/Amerika: die Geschichte einer kunstlerischen Faszination seit 1940, Museum Ludwig, Cologne, Germany
1985   Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
The Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CA (solo)
Galleria Montenapoleane, Milan, Italy (solo)
Cinquante ans de dessins americains, 1930-1980. Ecole nationale superieure des beaux-arts, Paris, France
1984   Auto and Culture, Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CA; Detroit Art Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
1983   Post-Raphaelite Painting, Reinhard Onnasch Ausstellungen, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Looking at Women, Artemesia Gallery, Chicago, IL
Festival of the Arts, Muhlenberg College, Allentown, PA
Contemporary Paintings from the Weatherspoon Art Gallery. University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC
The Last Laugh. Southern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center, Portsmouth, OH
1982   Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
documenta 7, Kassel, Germany
The Erotic Impulse. Roger Litz Gallery, New York, NY
1981   Galerie Klewan, Munich, Germany (solo)
Kunstlerwerkstatt, Lothringerstrasse, Munich, Germany (solo)
Phyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Brooks Jackson Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Westkunst. Museen der Staadt Koln, Cologne, Germany
1980 - 1981   Badischer Kunstverein e.v., Karlsruhe, Germany (solo)
Stedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The Netherlands (Traveling Retrospective) Musee National D'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, France; Kunsthalle Bern, Bern, Switzerland; Brooks Jackson Gallery, New York, NY
1980   American Painting of the Sixties and Seventes: The Real, Ideal and the Fantastic, Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, NY
"The Figurative Tradition and The Whitney Museum of Art", The Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NY
1979   CPLY: Reflections on a Past Life, Institute for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, TX (solo)
CPLY/X-Rated Paintings, Galerie Fassbender, Munich, Germany (solo)
1978 - 1979   Variations on a Theme by Francis Picabia, David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Galerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, Germany (solo)
1978   Galerie Fassbender, Munich, Germany (solo)
Galerie Springer, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
"Aspekte der 60er Jahre: aus der Sammlung Reinhard Onnasch", Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany
American Nude, Harold Reed Gallery, New York, NY
Box Museum, Cooper Hewitt Museum, New York, NY
1977   Phyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
Artist’s Renderings of Paintings, Pinoteca di Brera, Milan, Musee du Louvre, Paris, France
The Dada/Surrealist Heritage, Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown. MA
Art Outside the Mainstream/Bad Painting, The New Museum, New York, NY
1976   Washington Art Association, Washington, CT (solo)
David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
The William Seitz Memorial Exhibition, Princeton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJ
1975   Erik Nord Gallery, Nantucket, MA (solo)
Three Generations of the American Nude, New York Cultural Center, New York, NY
1974   Western Songs, Galerie Onnasch, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Onnasch Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Moore College of Art, Philadelphia, PA (solo)
CPLY/X-Rated, New York Cultural Center, New York, NY (solo)
1973   Gallerie Il Fauna, Turin, Italy (solo)
1972   Gallery Suzanne Saxe, San Francisco, CA (solo)
Galerie Iolas, Milan, Italy; Paris, France (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
David Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
Galerie Michael Werner, Cologne, Germany (solo)
GalerieAspects, Brussels, Belgium (solo)
Galerie du Dragon, Paris, France (solo)
documenta 5, Kassel, Germany
1971   Nouns, Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Erotic Art, The Art Center of the New School for Social Research, The New Museum, New York, NY
1970   Galerie Aspects, Brussels, Belgium (solo)
Galerie Neuendorf, Cologne, Germany (solo)
Galerie Springer, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Hot Show, Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery, New York, NY
Copley, Brauner and Magritte, Louisiana Gallery, Houston, TX
Box Top Art, Illinois State University, Bloomington, IL
1969   Ballads, Galerie Iolas, Geneva, Switzerland (solo)
Gallerie de Leone, Venice, Italy (solo)
Merida Gallery, Louisville, KY (solo)
1968   Galerie Springer, Berlin, Germany (solo)
Galerie Neuendorf, Hamburg, Germany (solo)
1967   Bodley Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Homage to Robert W. Service, Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Galerie Iolas, Paris, France
Around the Automobile, The Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
Mixed Masters, University of St. Thomas, Houston, TX
1966   Copley - Entertainment for Men, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands (solo)
Galerie Iolas, Paris, France (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Hommage a Caissa: Exhibition for the Chess Foundation of the Duchamp Fund, Cordier & Ekstrom Gallery, New York, NY
Surrealist Exhibition, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA
Le Portrait, Galerie Claude Bernard, Paris, France
25 Years of Art in San Diego, La Jolla Museum of Art, La Jolla, CA
1965   Allan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, IL (solo)
Southwestern College, Chula Vista, CA (solo)
Louisiana Gallery, Houston, TX (solo)
Pop Art, Noveau Realisme, Palais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, Belgium
Surrealist Exhibition, Byron Gallery, New York, NY
Visiting Artists at the Tamarind Lithography Workshop, Otis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CA
Group Show, Dwan Gallery, Los Angeles, CA
1964   David Stuart Gallery, Los Angeles, CA (solo)
Selections from the L.M. Asher Collection, University Art Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM
New Directions in American Painting, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA
Nieuwe realisten, Haags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The Netherlands
The Maremont Collection, Washington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, DC
Le Surrealisme: Sources, Histoire, Affinities. Galerie Charpentier, Paris, France
1963   Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Les Suffragettes Erotiques de Bill Copley, Galerie Iris Clert, Paris, France (solo)
Hanover Gallery, London, UK
Pop Art USA, Oakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CA
XIX Salon de Mai, Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
18 Salon de Realities Nouvelles, Musee Municipal d’Art Modern, Paris, France
Paris Lettriste, Galerie Schmidt, Paris, France
1962   Gallerie Arturo Schwarz, Milan, Italy (solo)
Collage out of California, Pasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CA
Antagonismes 2: L’objet, Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Pavillion de Marsan, Paris, France
Surrealismus: Phantastiche Malerei der Gegenwart, Kunstlerhaus, Vienna, Austria
XVIII Salon de Mai. Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
1961   The Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UK (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
Galerie Iris Clert, Paris, France (solo)
XVII Salon de Mai. Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Bewogen beweging-Rorelse i Konsten, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Moderna Museet, Stockholm, Sweden
1960   Galleria Cavallino, Venice, Italy (solo)
Galleria d'Arte del Naviglio, Milan, Italy (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1959   Galerie Furstenberg, Paris, France (solo)
XVI Salon de Mai. Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Exposition Internationale du Surrealisme, Galerie Daniel Cordier, Paris, France
Arte Fantastica, Museo de Castillo di San Giusto, Trieste, Italy
The Maremont Collection at the Institute of Design, Illinois Institute of Technology at Crown Hall, Chicago, IL
1958   Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
1957   Verzameling Urvater, Rijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, Otterlo: The Museum and Art Gallery, Leiscester; City of York Gallery; The Tate Gallery, London
1956   Galerie du Dragon, Paris, France (solo)
Alexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NY (solo)
XV Salon de Mai. Musee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, France
Exposition Internationale de l’art actuel, Nagaoka Museum, Nagaoka, Japan
1954   Galleria Montenapoleone, Milan, Italy (solo)
Americans in Paris, Galerie Arthur Craven, Paris, France
1953   Nina Dausset, Paris, France (solo)
1951   Royer's Book Shop, Los Angeles, CA (solo)