Cope was a well-known Victorian painter, and member of the Royal Academy. He painted a wide range of figurative subjects, historical, literary, biblical, and modern life. He exhibited at the Royal Academy from 1833 to 1882 and was elected a member in 1848. The second painting he ever exhibited at the British Institution in 1836 was called “Mother and Child”, and it quickly sold at the ‘private view’ day. The success of that painting always made the subject a favourite of the artist, and he produced several compositions of a similar kind.
He was the leader of the Etching Club from its foundation and probably the best etcher among its members. He was conscientious and industrious and worked at improving his plates. Known to his contemporaries as the Poet-Laureate of the Nursery, his etching served as a contrast to the high-mindedly historical frescoes he painted to decorate the palace of Westminster. he was on the council of the Royal Society of Painter Etchers.