Collection. Edward L. Loper, Sr., Papers. 1938-2009
- Loper, Edward L., b. 1916 (Author)
- Location/Public Access Data
- Delaware Historical Society Research Library, 505 Market St., Wilmingtion, DE 19801 302-655-7161 www.dehistory.org
- African Americans / Art / Loper, Edward L., 1916- / Wilmington (Del.)
- Cross-collection Category: African Americans
- Delaware Historical Society
- Restriction on Access and Use
- There are no access restrictions on this collection.
- Mix of some originals and some copies
- Preferred Citation
- When quoting material from this collection, the preferred citation is:
Edward L. Loper Papers, Delaware Historical Society
Scope and Content
collection contains papers, photographs, and memorabilia from the life
and career of Edward L. Loper, Sr., a leading Delaware artist whose
active career ran from the mid 1930s to the early 2000s. The collection
does not include paintings. The materials document both a life in art
and an African American man's life as an artist in Delaware.
The collection is divided into eight series.
1. Personal: correspondence and awards, 15 folders
2. Artistic career: 2 sketch books, notices of exhibitions, a few reproductions of paintings, calendars, "Loperisms," 22 folders
3. Teaching career: general papers, exhibitions with his students, 8 folders
4. Information about Loper: biographical information, interviews, master's thesis, book, articles, clippings, 28 folders
5. Art information: a small amount of reference material on art topics important to Loper, 5 folders
6. Other family members, 3 folders
Photographs and other pictorial material: photographs of Loper and some
of his paintings, photos of family members, 6 albums of events and
exhibits, videos about Loper, approx. 120 folders, 6 albums, 3 videos
Oversize: sketchbook, tributes, artists' statements from The Loper
Tradition, calendars, poster from The Prism's Edge, 5 folders
L. Loper was born in Wilmington, Delaware, on April 7, 1916, to Marian
Loper. He grew up in a poor but loving family on Heald Street in a
racially and ethnically mixed neighborhood. While he was young,
his mother married Reese Scott, who brought stability to the young
From his childhood Ed Loper was fascinated by
drawing and color. He drew in his spare time, using whatever
materials were available. He knew he had talent and wanted to
develop it. But because of poverty and the lack of opportunities
for blacks to study art in Delaware's highly segregated society of the
1920s and 1930s, Ed Loper's desire seemed destined to remain just a
Loper attended segregated schools and graduated from
Wilmington's Howard High School in 1934, in the midst of the Great
Depression. He had already started his own family with Viola
Cooper, who he later married. Jean was born in 1932, Edward, Jr.,
in 1934, and Kenneth in 1938. In those difficult times, Ed relied
on odd jobs and day labor to support his young family.
artistic ambitions remained a dream until Viola Cooper applied for
relief and heard that the government was hiring artists. In 1936
Loper began working for the Index of American Design, part of the Works
Progress Administration. The Index of American Design produced
exact renderings of American antiques and folk art, working either from
photographs or the objects themselves. Loper's colleagues and
supervisors encouraged and guided him. He taught himself by
haunting the Pyle Collection at the Wilmington Institute Free Library,
studying art books, visiting the Philadelphia Museum of Art, and working
on his own sketches and paintings. In 1939 Loper transferred to
the Easel Division of the WPA, where he could paint what he
wanted. He also began teaching at the Ferris School, the local
reform school, as part of his assignment.
As a young
artist, Ed Loper found inspiration in the scenes and people of his own
neighborhood. His first success came in 1937 when he won a prize
at the Annual Delaware Show at the Wilmington Society of the Fine Arts
(now the Delaware Art Museum). He was the first African American
artist to win a prize there. Other exhibition opportunities soon
followed, both local and national.
Success, however, did not mean
that he could support his family through art. In 1941, Loper took
a job at Allied Kid, painting on his own time after he finished his
shift in the leather factory. Allied Kid supported his art by
providing a place for him to teach his coworkers and by publicizing his
work. During this period, Loper's family life was in
upheaval. Viola Cooper Loper died in 1944, her death caused at
least in part because she, as a black woman, received treatment at the
emergency room only after all the white patients had been cared
for. This left Ed Loper with three young children to raise.
In 1947 he married Claudine Bruton.
In 1953 Ed Loper left Allied
Kid to devote all his time to art. During the 1960s he studied at
the Barnes Foundation in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. Dr. Albert
Barnes's art collection and method of teaching played an important role
in Loper's development as an artist and teacher.
career, Loper has exhibited locally, regionally, and farther
afield. He has had many solo exhibitions and has participated in
many group shows in both African-American and mainstream venues.
His paintings are in many museum, corporate, and private collections.
the time he taught at Ferris School, teaching has been an important
part of Ed Loper's life. He taught at Allied Kid, the Jewish
Community Center (1942-1967), the Delaware Art Museum (1950-1965),
Lincoln University (1965-1967), and the Delaware College of Art and
Design (early 2000s). He has also taught in his own studio for
many years. His teaching style is direct and intense. Many of his
students have worked with him for many years. Loper and his students
have shared many exhibitions, culminating the The Loper Tradition at the
Riverfront Art Center in 2001. Ed Loper stopped teaching around
Through his teaching, Loper met Janet Neville in the early
1960s. Their teacher-student relationship developed into something
much deeper. In 1987, Edward and Claudine Loper were divorced and
he married Janet Neville.
While Ed Loper always lived in
Wilmington and found subjects for painting in the local area, travel has
also been an important part of his life and art. He and his
family began to travel in the 1950s. He enjoyed New England's
artistic opportunities, but he did not enjoy the racism he encountered
even that far north. At a friend's suggestion, he went to French
Canada. He fell in love with the city of Quebec. It offered
challenging subjects for paintings and an atmosphere free of
racism. He returned there every summer. In the 1960s,
Loper's students began to join him there for two-week painting sessions.
the end of his career, Ed Loper received several major awards that
recognize his artistic achievement and his contributions to life in
Delaware. They include an honorary doctorate form Delaware State
University and the Governor's Award for the Arts. The Delaware Art
Museum honored him with a major retrospective exhibition in 1996.
Ed Loper's life and work have been well documented in a book, a
master's thesis, and a documentary film, all of which are included in
- Printed finding aids
- Edward L. Loper Papers. Notebook in library.