All the materials collected by Kitson, including these volumes on Cotman and related artists, serve to illustrate the growing interest in and the twentieth century re-appraisal of John Sell Cotman. There are some items in between pages, for example press and magazine cuttings.
For most of the twentieth century, Cotman was the most widely admired English watercolourist, surpassing even Turner in popularity. This revival owed much to James Reeve (1833-1920), the Norwich collector and Curator of Norwich Museum from 1851-1910, who acquired many works by Cotman and his Norfolk contemporaries. Reeve's contributions to exhibitions in Norwich and in London in 1888-89 re-established Cotman's reputation and attracted the interest of Laurence Binyon, Assistant Keeper in the Department of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum, who published studies of Cotman in 1897 and 1903. Reeve sold his collection to the British Museum in 1902, making it the foremost public holding of the artist's work.
Solomon Kaines-Smith (1876-1958) who was appointed Director of the Leeds Art Gallery in 1924, was another enthusiastic admirer of English watercolours. In 1926 Kaines-Smith published a small book on John Sell Cotman in which the artist's oil paintings were positively re-evaluated.
Most influential, however, was the distinguished scholar and collector Paul Oppé (1878–1957), whose contribution to the Studio magazine special edition in 1923 was devoted to John Sell Cotman. In 1904 Oppé began collecting drawings, beginning with a work by John Sell Cotman. Much of Oppé's art collection now forms part of the collections at the Tate Gallery, London. In 1923 he published two books, one on Rowlandson and another on Cotman.