Cooper trained at the Royal Academy Schools from 1823 and subsequently moved to Brussels, where he met Eugène Verboeckhoven (1798 - 1881), who introduced him to the work of seventeenth-century Dutch animal painters such as Aelbert Cuyp (1620 - 1691) and Paulus Potter (1625 - 1654). Following this meeting Cooper began to specialise in paintings of cattle and sheep. He returned to London in 1831, exhibiting at the Royal Society of British Artists and at the British Institution, although primarily at the Royal Academy (from 1833 to 1902 he exhibited 266 works there without a break). He was elected an associate of the Royal Academy in 1845 and a full member in 1867. In the 1860's Cooper moved back to Canterbury, where he opened an art school and gallery at the end of decade. Throughout the 1870s and 1880s, Cooper painted large numbers of oil paintings of placid pastoral scenes, as well as snow subjects.