Lillian Cotton

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Lillian Cotton (1892[1]–1962) was an American artist known for her portraits, especially of high-society figures and well-known actors, writers, and artists of her day.[2]

Lillian Cotton was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts. Her father was Nathaniel Hugh Cotton, a West Indies shipping merchant born in Barbados,[3] and her mother was Harriet Emma Clapp. Cotton developed an interest in art as a young child—drawing detailed portraits in sketchbooks as early as age ten—and attended the Boston Museum School. Between 1915 and 1917, Cotton studied at the Art Students League of New York under Robert Henri[4] and George Bellows.[5] In 1924, Cotton moved to Paris and studied at the André Lhote Academy.[6] While in Paris, she met Arthur Elia Impey, a British army officer, and married him in 1926.[7] The couple lived between Paris and New York.

Cotton was most famous for her portraits, with subjects including Greta Garbo, Lauren Bacall, Veronica Lake, June Walker, Marcel Marceau, Stephen James Joyce, Alfred Lunt, and Wheeler Williams. Cotton’s paintings are characterized by realistic forms, clear colors, and bold brushwork. Although she primarily painted human figures, she also occasionally painted landscapes and still-lifes.

Between 1918 and 1959, Cotton exhibited at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts,[8] the Corcoran Gallery of Art, the Metropolitan Museum of Art,[citation needed] and the Salon d'Automne,[9] among other institutions. She was also a member of the New York Society of Women Artists[10] and the Société Nationale des Beaux-Arts, maintaining a lifelong connection to both her American and French artistic “roots.”

Lillian Cotton pieces are represented in the permanent collections of the Corcoran Gallery of Art and of Florida State College and Seton Hall University. The painter occasionally signed her works LC Impey, though she is better known as an artist as Lillian Cotton. She is listed in Who Was Who in American Art (Falk, 1999) and the Dictionary of Women Artists (Petteys, 1985). Lillian Cotton died in New York City in 1962.


  1. ^ Lillian Cotton U.S. Passport Application. December 3, 1924. New York, New York.
  2. ^ "Cotton, Lillian, 1892-1962. Papers of Lillian Cotton, 1902-1970: A Finding Aid" Online Archival Search Information System. March 2014.
  3. ^ Saint Paul's School Archives. (Autumn, 1941). Obituary: Nathaniel Hugh Cotton. Alumni Horae 21(3), 146.
  4. ^ Wardle, Marion; Sarah Burns. (2005). American women modernists: the legacy of Robert Henri, 1910-1945. Rutgers University Press. p. 206. ISBN 0-8135-3684-7
  5. ^ Alfred Khouri Memorial Collection exhibition program, 1963. #35.
  6. ^ Alfred Khouri Memorial Collection exhibition program, 1963. #35.
  7. ^ Daily Mail and New York Herald, September 1926.
  8. ^ Alfred Khouri Memorial Collection exhibition program, 1963. #35.
  9. ^ (28 October 1932). Americans' Work at Solon D'Automne. Chicago Tribune, Paris.
  10. ^ (October 1945). At the Art Galleries: Riverside Museum to Host Women Artists. Brooklyn Eagle.