JOHN SELL COTMAN, the son of a linen-draper at Norwich, where he was born on June 11th, 1782, is generally reckoned as a member of the famous “Norwich School.” But the chief characteristics of his art are not those which distinguish the work of that group of admirable artists who made this town their headquarters. He was attached to the school rather by the accident of birth than by his adoption of the principles which guided his fellow-townsmen in their practice. The direction in which his artistic inclinations tended was really settled during the six years, 1800 to 1806, which he spent in London.
He was at this time thrown into contact with Turner, Girtin, Varley, De Wint, and the other young painters who met periodically at the house of Dr Monro, and his development was shaped by the influences which then making themselves felt in London art circles. He learned much from Girtin, even more, perhaps, from Turner, and when , in 1807, he returned to Norwich to live, he took back with him a store of sound impressions which only need to be properly assorted by the aid of his own strong individuality.