Study of Foliage, perhaps rhododendron
|John Sell Cotman, British, 1782 - 1842
|Recto: Study of Foliage, perhaps rhododendron;
Verso: Slight study of foliage;
|Graphite on wove paper
|Lightweight, white, wove paper
Sight size: 147 mm x 99 mm
Mount: 274 mm x 193 mm
|Bequeathed by Sydney Decimus Kitson,1949
This is a careful study of a shrub with regular clusters of elongated oval leaves, possibly identifiable as rhododendron. Kitson 1937 mentions a slight drawing of foliage on the reverse, but this not visible in the present mounting and not verified by the present writer.
Cotman made numerous studies of plants, generally of common weeds that typified his haunts as an artist. At the beginning of the nineteenth century the rhododendron would have been exclusively a garden plant, having been first introduced into Britain in the middle of the eighteenth century.
Such subjects are common in the earlier years of his career, particularly c.1803-5. The careful draftsmanship of this example might be best related to work from the period 1809-11, when leaves such as this appeared frequently as details in his watercolours and etchings.
This drawing is one of eleven mounted on one large sheet ('I') as acquired by Sydney Kitson in 1928. The group comprises entirely of studies of plants. Sometime before 1937, Kitson mounted them all individually and gave them new numbers for the catalogue drawn up in the latter year [K256-266].
David Hill, August 2017