September 20, 2019 9:05 am Published by
John Sell Cotman was, with John Crome, one of the most gifted representatives of the Norwich School. After studying in Norwich with Dr Munro, he went to London in 1800, beginning from this date to exhibit work at the Royal Academy. He continued to send seascapes and landscapes there until 1839, as he did also to the British Institution, the Suffolk Street Gallery and the Society of Painters in Watercolours, becoming an associate of the latter in 1825. In 1806 Cotman returned to Norfolk, where he became a member and secretary of the Society of Artists of Norwich, exhibiting many works there. He visited Normandy, bringing back studies for the series of Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, published in 1822 and containing 100 plates. In 1834, after a period of a few years in Yarmouth, he accepted the post of professor of drawing at King’s College, London where he taught until his death in 1842.
Between 1812 and 1822 Cotman produced a large number of engraved works depicting the architectural beauties of England, particularly of York, Norfolk and Suffolk. With John Crome, he was one of the artists who freed English landscape from the necessity for historical, allegorical or mythological content. He portrayed it with a post-Romantic sentiment of the communion of man with nature. His approach sometimes seems close to the Naturalism of Corot. Like Corot, Cotman sought to compose and balance the principal masses of a landscape, giving it at times an almost geometric appearance very much in advance of his times.
Group Exhibitions
2000, Romantic Landscape: The Norwich School of Painters 1803-1833, Tate Britain, London
2005, A Picture of Britain, Tate Britain, London (an exhibition looking at six regions of Britain through the eyes of British artists)
2007, British Vision: Observation and Imagination 1750-1950, Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Ghent
2008, John Sell Cotman and his Contemporaries, York Art Gallery
Solo Exhibitions
1982, Victoria and Albert Museum, London (travelling exhibition organised by the Arts Council of Great Britain also presented at Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester and City of Bristol Museum and Art Gallery)
2002, The Poetry of Nature: Watercolours by John Sell Cotman, British Museum, London
Museum and Gallery Holdings
Birmingham (Mus. and AG): The Devil’s Bridge, North Wales (c. 1801, watercolour and pencil); Interior of Walsoken Church, Norfolk (c. 1811, pencil and watercolour); Street Scene at Alencon, Normandy (1828, watercolour)
Cardiff: Italian Buildings and Boats; Skiff in the Reeds; Bushes, Garden with Figures (watercolour); Landscape, River and Mountains in the Distance (watercolour)
Dublin: View at Namur (watercolour)
Edinburgh: Jumièges, Rouen
Edinburgh (Nat. Gal. of Scotland): Buildings on a River (oil on canvas)
Edinburgh (Nat. Gal. of Scotland, Print Room): The Coming Storm (watercolour, from Sir Edward Marsh’s collection)
Leeds (City AG): A Ploughed Field (1807, watercolour); other watercolours
Leicester: Seascape, Norfolk Coast; same subject
Liverpool (AG, University): Gillingham Church, Norfolk; Dinant
Liverpool (Walker AG): The Shepherd on the Hill (1831, watercolour)
London (Tate Collection): Seashore with Boats (c. 1808); Wherries on Breydon (c. 1808, oil on canvas, attributed); The Drop Gate (c. 1826, oil on canvas); large collection of drawings and watercolours
London (Victoria and Albert Mus.): Rievaulx Abbey, Yorkshire; Entrance to a Town in Normandy; Covered Portal; Market Place and Church Spire in a Town in Normandy; The Mill; Boat at the River’s Edge; Perawa Palace, Malwa, Central India; Hills to the East of Dieppe; Ship in the Thames Estuary; Group of Figures with Mountains in the Distance; Chirk Aqueduct, 1806-7; Landscape, River and Cattle; Fishing Boat on the Shore; Guston Park, Norfolk; Hampstead Heath; Seascape; River Scene, Boats; Scene on a Lake; Street in a French Town; Rue St-Denis, Paris; House and River; Main Entrance to Dieppe; Capel Road, Wales; Classical Landscape; Shipwreck of a Fishing Boat
Manchester: Dutch Ships at the Isle of Wight; Near Portsmouth; Shipwreck in the Red Sea; Church of St Martin, Cologne; On the Sarthe, Alençon in the Distance
Manchester (Whitworth AG): Fishing Boats on the Beach (watercolour with scraping out); An Old House at St Albans (c. 1806, oil on canvas); Mont St Michel (1828, watercolour and scraping out); Antwerp (1830, watercolour and scraping out); Off Lowestoft: Fresh Breeze (1833, watercolour and pencil)
Norwich (Castle Mus. & AG): large collection of work, including The Baggage Wagon; Silver Birches; Dutch Boats off Yarmouth; Greta Bridge, Yorkshire (watercolour); The Marl Pit (watercolour); Mousehold Heath, Norwich (watercolour)
Nottingham (Castle Museum & AG): Ringland Hills, Costessy, Norwich
Preston (Harris Mus. and AG): The Palace of the Hyder Ali Khan, Rajah of Mysore (c. 1825)

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