As well as watching her mother mix colours to paint the walls, when she was a child Jean Cooke hid behind her father's shop counter and, by listening to the voice, tried to work out what a customer was like. Both things helped her become an artist.
Jean was an un-conformist and paint is unconforming. She once told a student of hers she started afresh, right from the bottom of the pile, with each new picture she painted and that is much more difficult than it sounds.
She might not readily concede that the Royal Academy (which, to remind, is a stroke of far-seeing Enlightenment imagination, an artists’ confederacy lasting at time of writing two hundred and forty years, rather than splitting like a sack within weeks) was in its way exactly right for Jean and she for it. Her occasional verbal contributions to General Assembly, where Academicians meet and discuss, and her paintings and drawings sent every year to the Summer Exhibition, were truly unexpected to say the least.
Jean Cooke, Dream Dream, 2008. Photo John Bodkin, Dawkins Colour
Her 2008 painting 'Dream Dream' of flowers landing on a blue ground was, like her, full of measure and disguise. So, it turns out she loved Mondrian. And this is how influence usually works, at right angles to the number you first thought of. The diminutive Jean will be a disproportionate loss to the Academy.