Born in the Peak District in 1953, Cooper has exhibited widely in the UK and internationally. Her work is held in many public and private collections including as the Arts Council Collection; The British Museum; The Royal Collection; Victoria & Albert Museum; Dallas Museum of Art, Texas; Kunsthalle, Nuremberg; Walpole Library, Yale University.
Studying first at Goldsmiths College (1971-74) and then at the Royal College of Art (1974-77). In 2000 Cooper was elected a Royal Academician. From 2010-17 Cooper served as Keeper of the Royal Academy, one of only 4 officers selected from the 80 Royal Academicians, and with primary responsibility for the Royal Academy Schools, thereby becoming the first woman to be elected to this role since the RA began in 1768.