modern art

William Copley /   William Nelson Copley

United States 1919 - 1996

Pop Art, Surrealism

williamncopley.com

William Copley
William Nelson Copley
Male
United States
1919
December 28, 2014

William Copley was an American 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.

William Nelson Copley, also known as CPLY, was born in New York City in 1919. He was found on the doorstep of the New York Foundling Hospital at the tail end of the Influenza epidemic, which likely killed his parents. In or around 1921 he was adopted by Ira C. and Edith Copley and taken home to Aurora, Illinois. The elder Copley, a utilities magnate, had had several runs for Congress and began purchasing newspapers in Illinois and later in Southern California. A few years after the adoption took place, Edith Copley died and Ira Copley remarried. When Bill was ten years old Copley moved his family to Coronado Island, California just across the bay from San Diego. Bill was a sickly child and missed a lot of school. He read a lot to keep up and was later sent to Phillips Andover and Yale.

As a painter, writer, gallerist, supporter, and publisher, William N. Copley blazed a singular path through numerous territories of post-war art, along the way charting a vital link between the European Surrealist and the American Pop Art movements. 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, Max Ernst, Yves Tanguy, Roberto Matta, Joseph Cornell, and Man Ray. 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. Copley’s paintings in this period dealt with ironic and humorous images of stereotypical American symbols like the Western saloon, cowboys, and pin-up girls combined with flags. 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 Mexican and American Folk Art with the Modern Surrealist look, creating 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.

His work is collected both in private and public collections worldwide. The work of CPLY has been the subject of numerous single artist shows and a traveling retrospective at the Kunsthalle Bern, Centre Georges Pompidou, and the Stedelijk Van Abbesmuseum, and has been exhibited in several important group exhibitions, including documenta 5 and documenta 7.

The artist died on May 7, 1996.



YearExhibition titleGallery/MuseumGroup/Solo
2012CopleyMuseum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, GermanySolo
2012Works 1948 – 1983Galerie von Braunbehrens, Munich, GermanySolo
2011William N. Copley und Andreas Slominski – X-RATED, MeCollectors Room, BerlinGroup
2011X-RATEDSadie Coles HQ, LondonSolo
2011See Yourself As Lovers See YouGalerie Klaus Gerrit Friese, Stuttgart, GermanySolo
2010X-RATEDPaul Kasmin Gallery, New YorkSolo
2010Die Bilder tun was mit mir...Museum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, GermanyGroup
2010Die Sammlung Christian ZachariasDas Haus und die Unendlichkeit Fondation de l´Hermitage, Lausanne, SwitzerlandGroup
2009William CopleyGalerie Klaus Gerrit Friese, Stuttgart, GermanySolo
2009William CopleyEl Sourdog Hex, Berlin, GermanySolo
2009William CopleyLinn Lühn, Cologne, GermanySolo
2009And Other EssaysBard College, Annandale-on Hudson, New York, NYGroup
2009Exile on Mail St.Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The NetherlandsGroup
2009Jr and Son’sZach Feuer Gallery, New YorkGroup
2008Diana und Aktaion: der verbotene Blick auf die NacktheitMuseum Kunst Palest, Dusseldorf, GermanyGroup
2008Karl Bohrmann- William N. CopleyGalerie Klaus Gerrit Freise, Stuttgart, GermanyGroup
2008Carte Blanche III: “Gedichte der Fakten”: Arbeiten aus der Sammlung Arend und Brigitte OetkerGfZK - Galerie fur Zeitgenossische Kunst, Lepzig, GermanyGroup
2008Liebe, Love, PaareGustav-Lubcke-Museum, Hamm, GermanyGroup
2008Museum im Kulterspeicher, WurzburgUlmer Museum, Ulm, GermanyGroup
2008Mirror, MirrorEdward Thorpe Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2007William CopleyLinn Lühn, Cologne, GermanySolo
2007Deutsche und Amerikanische Malerei: Aus der Sammlung Freider BurdaMuseum Freider Burda, Baden-Baden, GermanyGroup
2007Rockers Island: Olbricht CollectionMuseum Folkwang, Essen, GermanyGroup
2007Sixties! Art, Fashion, Design, Film and PhotographyGemeentemuseum Den Haag, The Hague, The NetherlandsGroup
2007AffinitiesDeutsche Guggenheim, Berlin, GermanyGroup
2006William CopleyNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2006William CopleyGalerie Manus Presse - Klaus Gerrit Friese, Stuttgart, GermanySolo
2006Ele-MentalDavid Nolan Gallery, New York City, NYGroup
2006Six Feet Under: Autopsie unseres Umgangs mit TotenKunstmuseum Bern, Bern, SwitzerlandGroup
2006Models and PrototypesMildred Lane Kemper Art Museum, St. Louis, MOGroup
2006L’Amateur d’estampesMusee des Beaux-Arts, Tourcoing, FranceGroup
2006Collage Effect1301PE, Los Angeles, CAGroup
2006Group ShowNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2005William CopleyGalerie Onrust, Amsterdam, the NetherlandsSolo
2005Internationale ZeichnerGalerie Biedermann, Munich, GermanyGroup
2005Bilderwechsel III – Amerikanische MalereiMuseum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, GermanyGroup
2004William CopleyGalerie Daniel Blau, Munich, GermanySolo
2004William CopleyMamco-Musèe d’art moderne et contemporain, Geneva, SwitzerlandSolo
2004William CopleyMuseum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, ILSolo
2004FUNNY CUTS - Cartoons und Comics in der zeitgenössische KunstStaatsgalerie, Stuttgart, GermanyGroup
2004Eröffnungsausstellung Sammlung Frieder BurdaMuseum Frieder Burda, Baden-Baden, GermanyGroup
2004Sammlung Frieder Burda – EröffnungsausstellungStaatliche Kunsthalle Baden-Baden, Baden-Baden, GermanyGroup
2004Christmas Art GiftsArtiscope, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
2004BaumeGalerie Biedermann, Munich, GermanyGroup
2003William CopleyNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2003William CopleyBAWAG Foundation, ViennaSolo
2003William CopleyJohann Konig, Berlin, GermanySolo
2003Imagine - Selections from the permanent collectionMuseum of Contemporary Art - North Miami MOCA, Miami, FLGroup
2002Drawings 1956-1994Galerie Fred Jahn, Munich, GermanySolo
2001Kunst Sammeln I: Werke zeitgenossischer Kunst aus den Sammlungen von Cramm, Falckenburg, KalkmannKunstverein Bad Salzdetfurth e.V., Bodenburg, GermanyGroup
2001Museum unserer WunscheMuseum Ludwig, Cologne, GermanyGroup
2001William CopleyNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2001William CopleyBonnefanten Museum, Maastricht, the NetherlandsSolo
2000William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NYSolo
2000Prints NolanEckman Gallery, New York, NYGroup
2000Im Gegenuber: Landschaften, Stilleben, PortraitsGalerie von Braunbehrens, Munich, GermanyGroup
1999William CopleyGalerie Fred Jahn, Munich, GermanySolo
1999William CopleyL.A.C., Lieu d'Art Contemporain, Sigean, FranceSolo
1999William CopleyGalerie Daniel Blau, Munich, GermanySolo
1999William CopleyHerning Kunstmuseum, Herning, GermanySolo
1998William CopleyGalerie Lelong, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
1998William CopleyGalerie Onrust, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
1998William CopleyNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1998Summer Group ShowNolan - Eckman Gallery, New YorkGroup
1997William CopleyUlmer Museum, Ulm, GermanySolo
1997William CopleyGalerie Kurt Schafer, Berlin, GermanySolo
1997Magie der Zahl in der Kunst des 20. JahrhundertsStaatsgalerie, Stuttgart, GermanyGroup
1997Spiral VillageBonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, The NetherlandsGroup
1996William CopleyNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1996William CopleyGalerie Fred Jahn, Munich, GermanySolo
1996Hommage a CopleyGalerie Fred Jahn, Munich, GermanySolo
1996ThinkGalerie Brigitte Ihsen, Cologne, GermanyGroup
1996Disegni americani degli anni ottanta: 15 artistiGalleria Milano, Milan, ItalyGroup
1995RetrospectiveKestner-Gesellshaft, Hamburg, GermanySolo
1995William CopleyGalerie Lelong, Zurich, SwitzerlandSolo
1995William CopleyGalerie Kurt Schafer, Berlin, GermanySolo
1995William CopleyGalerie Zell am See, Schloss Rosenberg, AustriaSolo
1995William CopleyGalerie Michael, Heidelberg, GermanySolo
1995William CopleyGalerie Brigitte Ihsen, Cologne, GermanySolo
1995Bunnies - A Group ShowNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1995Drawing the line: Reappraising Drawing Past and PresentSouthampton City Art Gallery, SouthamptonGroup
1995Drawing the line: Reappraising Drawing Past and PresentManchester City Art GalleriesGroup
1995Drawing the line: Reappraising Drawing Past and PresentFerens Art Gallery, HullGroup
1995Drawing the line: Reappraising Drawing Past and PresentWhitechapel Art Gallery, LondonGroup
1994William CopleyNolan - Eckman Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1994William CopleyGalerie Fred Jahn, Munich, GermanySolo
1994William CopleyGalerie Fred Jahn and Nolan - Eckman Gallery, Art Basel, GermanySolo
1994William CopleyGalerie Klewan, Munich, GermanySolo
1994William CopleyGalerie Heike Curtze, Vienna, AustriaSolo
1994Old Glory: The American Flag in Contemporary ArtCleveland Center for Contemporary Art, Cleveland, OHGroup
1993William CopleyGalerie Zell am See, Schloss Rosenberg, AustriaSolo
1993William CopleyHaus Am Lutzowplatz, Berlin, GermanySolo
1993William CopleyGalerie Fred Jahn, Munich, GermanySolo
1992William CopleyGalleria Peccolo, Livorno, ItalySolo
1992William CopleyGalleria Milano, Milan, ItalySolo
1991William CopleyDavid Nolan Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1991William CopleyGalerie Fred Jahn, Munich, GermanySolo
1991William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NY & Chicago, ILSolo
1991William CopleyGalerie Klewan, Munich, GermanySolo
1990William CopleyGalerie Klewan, Munich, GermanySolo
1990William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, ILSolo
1989Bilderstreit: Widerspruch, Einheit und Fragment in der Kunst seit 1960Museum Ludwig in den Rheinhallen der Kolner Messe, Cologne, GermanyGroup
1988William CopleyGalerie 1900-2000, Paris, FranceSolo
1988Gran Pavese, The Flag ProjectMuHKA Museum voor Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, Antwerp, BelgiumGroup
1988Roger Brown, William Copley, Duncan HannahGloria Luria Gallery, Miami, FloridaGroup
1987William CopleyKewenig Galerie, Frechen-bachem, GermanySolo
1987William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1986The Tomb of the Unknown Whore – installationNew Museum of Contemporary Art, New York, NYSolo
1986Roger Brown, William Copley, Duncan HannahGloria Luria Gallery, Miami, FLGroup
1986Europa - Amerika: die Geschichte einer kunstlerischen Faszination seit 1940Museum Ludwig, Cologne, GermanyGroup
1985William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1985William CopleyThe Quay Gallery, San Francisco, CASolo
1985William CopleyGalleria Montenapoleane, Milan, ItalySolo
1985Cinquante ans de dessins americains, 1930-1980Ecole nationale superieure des beaux-arts, Paris, FranceGroup
1984Auto and CultureMuseum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1984Auto and CultureDetroit Art Institute of Arts, Detroit, MIGroup
1983Post-Raphaelite PaintingReinhard Onnasch Ausstellungen, Berlin, GermanySolo
1983William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1983Looking at WomenArtemesia Gallery, Chicago, ILGroup
1983Festival of the ArtsMuhlenberg College, Allentown, PAGroup
1983Contemporary Paintings from the Weatherspoon Art GalleryUniversity of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NCGroup
1983The Last LaughSouthern Ohio Museum and Cultural Center, Portsmouth, OHGroup
1982William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, ILSolo
1982documenta 7Kassel, GermanyGroup
1982The Erotic ImpulseRoger Litz Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1981William CopleyGalerie Klewan, Munich, GermanySolo
1981William CopleyKunstlerwerkstatt, Lothringerstrasse, Munich, GermanySolo
1981William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1981William CopleyBrooks Jackson Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1981WestkunstMuseen der Staadt Koln, Cologne, GermanyGroup
1980William CopleyBadischer Kunstverein e.v., Karlsruhe, GermanySolo
1980William CopleyStedelijk Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, The NetherlandsSolo
1980William CopleyMusee National D'Art Moderne, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris, FranceSolo
1980William CopleyKunsthalle Bern, Bern, SwitzerlandSolo
1980William CopleyBrooks Jackson Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1980American Painting of the Sixties and Seventes: The Real, Ideal and the FantasticWhitney Museum of American Art, New York, NYGroup
1980The Figurative Tradition and The Whitney Museum of ArtThe Whitney Museum of Art, New York, NYGroup
1979CPLY: Reflections on a Past LifeInstitute for the Arts, Rice University, Houston, TXSolo
1979CPLY - X-Rated PaintingsGalerie Fassbender, Munich, GermanySolo
1979Variations on a Theme by Francis PicabiaDavid Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CASolo
1979William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1979William CopleyGalerie Rudolf Zwirner, Cologne, GermanySolo
1978William CopleyGalerie Fassbender, Munich, GermanySolo
1978William CopleyGalerie Springer, Berlin, GermanySolo
1978William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1978Aspekte der 60er Jahre: aus der Sammlung Reinhard OnnaschNationalgalerie, Berlin, GermanyGroup
1978American NudeHarold Reed Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1978Box MuseumCooper Hewitt Museum, New York, NYGroup
1977William CopleyPhyllis Kind Gallery, Chicago, ILSolo
1977Artist’s Renderings of PaintingsPinoteca di Brera, Milan, Musee du Louvre, Paris, FranceGroup
1977The Dada - Surrealist HeritageSterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown, MAGroup
1977Art Outside the Mainstream - Bad PaintingThe New Museum, New York, NYGroup
1976William CopleyWashington Art Association, Washington, CTSolo
1976William CopleyDavid Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CASolo
1976William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1976The William Seitz Memorial ExhibitionPrinceton University Art Museum, Princeton, NJGroup
1975William CopleyErik Nord Gallery, Nantucket, MASolo
1975Three Generations of the American NudeNew York Cultural Center, New York, NYGroup
1974Western SongsGalerie Onnasch, Cologne, GermanySolo
1974William CopleyOnnasch Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1974William CopleyMoore College of Art, Philadelphia, PASolo
1974CPLY - X-RatedNew York Cultural Center, New York, NYSolo
1973William CopleyGallerie Il Fauna, Turin, ItalySolo
1972William CopleyGallery Suzanne Saxe, San Francisco, CASolo
1972William CopleyGalerie Iolas, Milan, Italy; Paris, FranceSolo
1972William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1972William CopleyDavid Stuart Galleries, Los Angeles, CASolo
1972William CopleyGalerie Michael Werner, Cologne, GermanySolo
1972William CopleyGalerie Aspects, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
1972William CopleyGalerie du Dragon, Paris, FranceSolo
1972documenta 5Kassel, GermanyGroup
1971NounsAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1971Erotic ArtThe Art Center of the New School for Social Research, The New Museum, New York, NYGroup
1970William CopleyGalerie Aspects, Brussels, BelgiumSolo
1970William CopleyGalerie Neuendorf, Cologne, GermanySolo
1970William CopleyGalerie Springer, Berlin, GermanySolo
1970Hot ShowCordier & Ekstrom Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1970Copley, Brauner and MagritteLouisiana Gallery, Houston, TXGroup
1970Box Top ArtIllinois State University, Bloomington, ILGroup
1969BalladsGalerie Iolas, Geneva, SwitzerlandSolo
1969William CopleyGallerie de Leone, Venice, ItalySolo
1969William CopleyMerida Gallery, Louisville, KYSolo
1968William CopleyGalerie Springer, Berlin, GermanySolo
1968William CopleyGalerie Neuendorf, Hamburg, GermanySolo
1967William CopleyBodley Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1967Homage to Robert W. ServiceAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1967William CopleyGalerie Iolas, Paris, FranceSolo
1967Around the AutomobileThe Museum of Modern Art, New York, NYGroup
1967Mixed MastersUniversity of St. Thomas, Houston, TXGroup
1966Copley - Entertainment for MenStedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsSolo
1966William CopleyGalerie Iolas, Paris, FranceSolo
1966William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1966Hommage a Caissa: Exhibition for the Chess Foundation of the Duchamp FundCordier & Ekstrom Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1966Surrealist ExhibitionUniversity of California, Santa Barbara, CAGroup
1966Le PortraitGalerie Claude Bernard, Paris, FranceGroup
196625 Years of Art in San DiegoLa Jolla Museum of Art, La Jolla, CAGroup
1965William CopleyAllan Frumkin Gallery, Chicago, ILSolo
1965William CopleySouthwestern College, Chula Vista, CASolo
1965William CopleyLouisiana Gallery, Houston, TXSolo
1965Pop Art, Noveau RealismePalais des Beaux-Arts, Brussels, BelgiumGroup
1965Surrealist ExhibitionByron Gallery, New York, NYGroup
1965Visiting Artists at the Tamarind Lithography WorkshopOtis Art Institute, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1965Group ShowDwan Gallery, Los Angeles, CAGroup
1964William CopleyDavid Stuart Gallery, Los Angeles, CASolo
1964Selections from the L.M. Asher CollectionUniversity Art Gallery, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NMGroup
1964New Directions in American PaintingRose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MAGroup
1964Nieuwe realistenHaags Gemeentemuseum, The Hague, The NetherlandsGroup
1964The Maremont CollectionWashington Gallery of Modern Art, Washington, DCGroup
1964Le Surrealisme: Sources, Histoire, AffinitiesGalerie Charpentier, Paris, FranceGroup
1963William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1963Les Suffragettes Erotiques de Bill CopleyGalerie Iris Clert, Paris, FranceSolo
1963William CopleyHanover Gallery, London, UKSolo
1963Pop Art USAOakland Museum of Art, Oakland, CAGroup
1963XIX Salon de MaiMusee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, FranceGroup
196318 Salon de Realities NouvellesMusee Municipal d’Art Modern, Paris, FranceGroup
1963Paris LettristeGalerie Schmidt, Paris, FranceGroup
1962William CopleyGallerie Arturo Schwarz, Milan, ItalySolo
1962Collage out of CaliforniaPasadena Art Museum, Pasadena, CAGroup
1962Antagonismes 2: L’objetMusee des Arts Decoratifs, Palais du Louvre, Pavillion de Marsan, Paris, FranceGroup
1962Surrealismus: Phantastiche Malerei der GegenwartKunstlerhaus, Vienna, AustriaGroup
1962XVIII Salon de MaiMusee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, FranceGroup
1961William CopleyThe Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, UKSolo
1961William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1961William CopleyGalerie Iris Clert, Paris, FranceSolo
1961XVII Salon de MaiMusee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, FranceGroup
1961Bewogen beweging-Rorelse i KonstenStedelijk Museum, Amsterdam, The NetherlandsGroup
1961William CopleyModerna Museet, Stockholm, SwedenSolo
1960William CopleyGalleria Cavallino, Venice, ItalySolo
1960William CopleyGalleria d'Arte del Naviglio, Milan, ItalySolo
1960William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1959William CopleyGalerie Furstenberg, Paris, FranceSolo
1959XVI Salon de MaiMusee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, FranceGroup
1959Exposition Internationale du SurrealismeGalerie Daniel Cordier, Paris, FranceGroup
1959Arte FantasticaMuseo de Castillo di San Giusto, Trieste, ItalyGroup
1959The Maremont Collection at the Institute of DesignIllinois Institute of Technology at Crown Hall, Chicago, ILGroup
1958William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1957Verzameling UrvaterRijksmuseum Kroller-Muller, OtterloGroup
1957Verzameling UrvaterThe Museum and Art Gallery, LeiscesterGroup
1957Verzameling UrvaterCity of York GalleryGroup
1957Verzameling UrvaterThe Tate Gallery, LondonGroup
1956William CopleyGalerie du Dragon, Paris, FranceSolo
1956William CopleyAlexander Iolas Gallery, New York, NYSolo
1956XV Salon de MaiMusee d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, Paris, FranceGroup
1956Exposition Internationale de l’art actuelNagaoka Museum, Nagaoka, JapanGroup
1954William CopleyGalleria Montenapoleone, Milan, ItalySolo
1954Americans in ParisGalerie Arthur Craven, Paris, FranceGroup
1953William CopleyNina Dausset, Paris, FranceSolo
1951William CopleyRoyer's Book Shop, Los Angeles, CASolo