Printmaker and painter, John Copley was born in Manchester, studied at the Manchester School of Art, the Royal Academy Schools in London, and in Italy. He made over 400 prints: 253 lithographs and 155 etchings.
His first lithographs were published in 1909, when he was already 34. A chronic heart condition restricted his ability to work, but despite this, he printed every impression of his own work as well as those of his wife Ethel Gabain, whom he married in 1913. His early work included complex colour lithographs, such as A Lavatory (1909) and Athletes Dressing (1912) but the majority of his work was printed in black only: Recruits (1915) is perhaps his best known work.
John Copley made his first experiments in etching in 1917 but lithography remained his principal medium until 1925. In the last decade of his life he produced a succession of arresting images in etching such as An Autumn Afternoon on Hampstead Heath (1939), Figures in the Wind and London Snow (1940), French Songs (1946) and In the Tube (1948). Two self-portraits followed in 1949, The Pink Vase and In my Studio.
In his lifetime his work was published and shown at P. & D. Colnaghi, whose director Harold Wright wrote a catalogue of his and his wife’s lithographs published by Albert Roullier Art Galleries, Chicago in 1925 to coincide with their exhibition. The Yale Center for British Art held an exhibition in 1990. Exhibitions were also staged at Garton & Cooke (1985), Thos. Agnew & Sons (1990) and The Fine Art Society (1998 and 2000).