The Cotman Collection | SDK Sydney Decimus Kitson Archive

Sydney Decimus Kitson Archive

Creator: Sydney Decimus Kitson, British, 1871 - 1937
Period: [1804-1950]

The Sydney Decimus Kitson Archive is comprised of material generated and accumulated in the course of Sydney Decimus Kitson’s life, namely, as a scholar and collector of the artist John Sell Cotman.

At the core of the archive are twelve bound volumes, which Kitson named ‘Cotmania’. These contain his research notes from 1926 up to his death on 1 July 1937. The volumes represent an extensive body of correspondence with a wide range of art historians, collectors, dealers, curators, artists and relatives of artists. In most cases these are in-letters only, but a few copies of Kitson’s own outgoing letters are included. The volumes also contain small sketches of Cotman drawings by Kitson, press and magazine cuttings, and other ephemera... continue reading

The Cotman Letters

Bound volumes of letters collected by Kitson as part of his research into the life and work of Cotman.

One volume containing original letters (1834-35) from Arthur Dixon to his friend John Joseph Cotman the second son of John Sell Cotman, and four volumes containing transcriptions (manuscript and typescript in Kitson's hand) of Cotman correspondence (1804-1864).

The Cotmania Volumes

Twelve journals that Sydney Decimus Kitson kept from 1926 contain a wide selection of papers regarding John Sell Cotman, including daily journal entries regarding his research, newspaper and magazine cuttings, correspondence, details of sales, transcriptions, sketches, pedigrees, reports, telegrams, photographs and other ephemera.

J.S. Cotman Sketches

Kitson's notebook of Pencil sketches by J.S. Cotman.

Sales and Exhibition Catalogues

A number of Cotman related sales and exhibitions catalogues collected by Kitson during the course of his Cotman research. Most of the books bear Kitson's name and some are annotated by him.


The papers are arranged in two main groupings based on provenance: SDK/1 comprises the papers of Sydney Decimus Kitson relating to his collecting of works by watercolour painter John Sell Cotman (1782-1842) and his biography of the life of Cotman which was published by Faber and Faber in 1937; and SDK/2 comprises posthumous papers relating to the bequest of Kitson's collection of Cotman works, along with some related documents. Within these two groupings, the material is arranged in series based on format or provenance, as follows: