The Cotman Collection | 8

Cotmania. Vol. XII. 1937

Archive: SDK Sydney Decimus Kitson Archive
Reference Number: SDK/1/2/1/12
Page: 3 recto

  • Description

    More Cotman Discoveries - Sketches as "Backings" by S.D. Kitson (cont).

    Illustrated London News magazine article by S.D. Kitson about Cotman's use of sketches as stiffeners (cont)

    Date: 23 Jan 1937

  • Transcription

    {Illustrated London News magazine article by S.D. Kitson about Cotman's use of sketches as stiffeners}

    found to have no fewer than four "stiffeners" below it. The first of these (No. 2) contained a statement of the gift of the drawing to "G. Buckle, Esq.", its title, and the date, July 30, 1801. Below this first backing were two blank leaves, and then still another sheet of paper on which there was the portrait of a youth, drawn in pencil and finished with a bluish wash (No. 6). There are two little pen-and-ink sketches underneath the portrait, the one, seemingly of a battle, with three soldiers on either side, the other the wheel of a primitive coal-shaft and its attendant horse. At the bottom is the inscription, "Drawn between June 26 and 27 1801 at 12 o'clock midnight by J.S. Cotman."

    Is it possible to identify the subject of this portrait? The theory that it is a self-portrait of Cotman must, I think, be ruled out. The fleshy nose (which is caricatured in the note to the right of the picture) is unlike the aquiline nose in the existing portraits of Cotman. But there is the definite possibility that it may be the portrait of Peter Norton, who had been drawn by Cotman just a year ealier, in June 1800 (No. 1). As a young man in London with his living to earn, Cotman made friends with the stationers and print-sellers, who would put the drawings of such artists in their shop windows. These drawings were bought by young ladies and copied by them, with a view to improving their practice in that elegant and then fashionable art of water-colour painting. One of the first people to befriend Cotman when he came up to London from Norwich, as a boy of seventeen, was a stationer called Norton, in Soho Square, who introduced the young artist to his brother, James Norton, a bookseller in Bristol. Cotman went there in June 1800, and drew pencil portraits of the whole family; and among them that of Peter Norton, who was then eighteen, and therefore of the same age as Cotman. If the two portraits be compared, it will be seen that there is a striking resemblance between them, allowing for the year's difference in age. It may well be that Cotman repeated his visit of 1800 to the Nortons at Bristol in the following year, and drew his contemporary once again.

    Illustrated London News
    Jan: 23. 1937.

More Cotman Discoveries - Sketches as