The Cotman Collection | 22

Cotmania. Vol. VII. 1931-2

Archive: SDK Sydney Decimus Kitson Archive
Reference Number: SDK/1/2/1/7
Page: 7 recto

  • Description

    Cuttings from the Sunday Times (16 August 1931), the Times (28 October 1931) and the Times Literary Supplement (5 November 1931)

    (1) Article by Frank Rutter from the Sunday Times on Walker's exhibition of early English watercolours, with praise of John Joseph Cotman [see also fol. 6r in this volume]
    (2) Extract from the Times on an exhibition of watercolours by Edna Fox, with mention of 'Cotmanesque lines'
    (3) Extract from review in the Times Literary Supplement of John Littlejohns, [British Water-Colour Painting and Painters of To-day (1931),] with mention of Cozens, Girtin and Cotman

    Date: 1931

  • Transcription

    The annual exhibition of Early English Water-colours at the Walker's Galleries is always as instructive as it is pleasant to visit. It is instructive because these exhibitions, in addition to representative examples of the most famous members of this school, always contain a number of admirable drawings by painters of whom most of us have never heard.
    Therefore, in connection with the twenty,seventh exhibition of this series, which remains open at New Bond Street till the autumn, one is tempted to pass over and take for granted the contributions of the illustrious. After all, what does there remain to say of such makers as Bonnington, John Sell Cotman, De Wint, Samuel Prout, Paul Sandby, Turner and Varley except to say that here they are represented and well represented? One might add that owing to the break-up of John Ruskin's private collection several of the drawings here come from that source, and that five of the great critic's own careful and conscientious drawings are included in the exhibition. But intrinsically interesting as all these things are, they can none of them be said to afford the stimulation that comes from what amounts to a new discovery.

    While it does afford us a great deal of quiet satisfaction, it would be extravagant to say that his sepia drawing of "The Mill House," the one example of his art here, throws any new light on the art of John Sell Cotman. We all know now that Cotman was one of the greatest landscape painters that England ever produced, and our reverence for him is so great that our homage sometimes takes the strange form of scofling at the works of his sons. Admittedly, they were not painters of the high rank attained bv their father, but they were much better than many stern critics have supposed.
    Largely thanks to Mr. Augustus Walker, who has not only held special exhibitions of his work, but issued a monograph on his art, the work of Cotman's elder son, Miles E. Cotman, has met with greatly increased consideration these later years. There is not much likelihood that the five drawings by Miles, from the Bulwer Collection, will be neglected by visitors to this exhibition.
    But of the younger son, John Joseph Cotman, very little notice has yet been taken. Redgrave did not trouble to include him even in his "Dictionary of Artists of the English School," though he condescended to give a few patronising lines to Miles. Yet I venture to assert that the two water-colours of J. J. Cotman are among the most interesting things to be seen at Walker's. His "Norwich from the Yare," which was painted in 1873, is a gem of a water-colour, as fresh and sunny as a Mark Fisher. Indeed, in its sparkle of colour and its loose broad handling, it is far in advance of its age, tending towards something like the luminist style of the later impressionists. I think it shows that John Joseph had a more independent spirit really than Miles, who never got so far from the art of his father.
    We may be sure that in his lifetime J. J. was expected to model his art on that of his father, and that it was a reproach to him when he failed to do so, for it is usually something of a handicap to be the painting son of a distinguished painter. At least these drawings at Walker's show that John Joseph late in life succeeded in breaking away from the paternal tradition and ranging himself with those adventurous spirits who were reaching out in new directions for greater freedom of expression in higher keys of colour.

    [Note by Kitson pointing to both the above extracts]
    'The Sunday Times' Aug: 16, 1931.

    The water-colours by Mrs Edna K. Fox at the Graham Gallery, 72, New Bond-street, show a certain amount of taste and a disposition to treat things simply—on rather Cotmanesque lines. If they were composed as well as they
    are seen and executed they would be good indeed, but Mrs. Fox has not much sense of the picture as a whole. But "Bag Tor Mill, Dartmoor," "Feeding Time, Bag Tor," and "Farm Buildings, Dartmoor" are refreshing things to come upon in an exhibition of the kind. These Dartmoor drawings are really better than those of Carcassonne, though the latter have the advantage in subject interest. "Entrance to the Château, Carcassonne" is the most successful pictorially. Among the works in sculpture by Miss Dorothea Fox and Miss Mervyn Pocock, "Daphne, daughter of Mr. and Mrs. W. P. Freeth," a little girl dancing, by the latter, may be praised for its grace of movement.

    [Note by Kitson]
    The Times
    Oct: 28, 1931.

    To quote Mr. Littlejohns:—
    'The styles considered and illustrated here occupy a position between the two extremes, appealing to those whose tastes and judgments respect the strivings of the past without being hampered by their appreciation of the present, and are able to discriminate between the intelligent desire for growth and the rapid craving for mere novelty.'
    That is reasonable: but we arer not quite sure that Mr. Littlejohns quite appreciates why the "strivings of the past"—that is to say, the remote past of Cozens, Girtin and Cotman—are sometimes preferred to the kind of work produced by some of his contributors. It is not from fear or dislike of "adventure" but rather from a preference for adventurous thinking and feeling over adventurous execution.
    [Note by Kitson]
    Times Lit: Sup. Nov: 5 1931.
    – in a review of a book on Water-Colour Painting by Littlejohns.

Cuttings from the *Sunday Times* (16 August 1931), the *Times* (28 October 1931) and the *Times Literary Supplement* (5 November 1931)