A Celebration of Louise Cochrane

COCHRANE2Throughout the last four decades of her life, Louise B. Cochrane forged a deep and meaningful relationship with the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. When she passed away on December 10, 2015, the museum lost a dedicated and beloved patron, whose presence will be deeply missed, but whose legacy—as a donor and an artist—will continue to be felt throughout the museum for many years to come.

A Floral Jubilee: The Art of Louise Cochrane, an exhibition of 25 works, had been in the planning stages for many months and was scheduled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of her birth on January 30, 2016. With her passing, the exhibition is now also a commemoration “We are so grateful for Louise’s devotion to VMFA over these past years,” says VMFA Director Alex Nyerges. “It’s only fitting that we honor her life by making her art available for all of our visitors to see and appreciate.”

Louise began taking painting lessons at the Tuckahoe Woman’s Club in 1970. Shortly thereafter, she joined VMFA’s Council and became a docent. “My interest in the museum seemed to grow from there,” she recalled in a 2007 interview. She was appointed to the museum’s Board of Trustees in 1977.

As her practice of painting intertwined with her work at the museum, she participated in workshops and classes in Richmond and other cities, including Venice, Italy. Her extensive travels and love of gardening provided the subjects for many of her paintings over the years, but her particular focus was always flowers.


In 1988, Louise and her husband, J. Harwood Cochrane, established an endowment to support the purchase of American art. This generous fund has enabled the museum to acquire important works of American art, including the recently acquired Prince William and His Elder Sister, Princess Sophia by Benjamin West, The Wounded Hound by William Ranney, Quince Blossoms by Charles Caryl Coleman, and Brideship (Colonial Brides) by Thomas Hart Benton, as well as William Wetmore Story’s sculpture of Cleopatra and dozens of other exquisite objects and paintings. In recognition of their outstanding philanthropy, the museum’s Cochrane Court—outside of the Ancient Art and East Asian Art galleries—and the Cochrane Atrium were named for the couple.

A Floral Jubilee: The Art of Louise Cochrane explores Louise Cochrane’s passion for many types of blooms including sunflowers, lilies, daisies, daffodils, irises, and more. But it also reveals that her favorite is, above all, the rose.

Dr. Susan J. Rawles, Associate Curator of American Painting and Decorative Art and Acting Head of the American Art Department, notes that Louise’s paintings were featured in several exhibitions throughout the years. “In fact, her 1994 painting Reflections has been on display outside the McGlothlin American Art Galleries since 2011,” she says.

This new show features one portrait of a mixed bouquet that was inspired by the 2015 VMFA exhibition Van Gogh, Manet, and Matisse: The Art of the Flower. “Even in her later years, Louise continued to be inspired by her connection to the museum and the world of art,” Rawles points out; “symbiotically, her legacy will be our inspiration.”