The Cotman Collection | Study of a Plant, probably a burdock

John Sell Cotman

Study of a Plant, probably a burdock
c. 1814

Study of a Plant, probably a burdock
Artist: John Sell Cotman, British, 1782 - 1842
Title: Study of a Plant, probably a burdock
Date: c. 1814
Object name: Drawing
Medium: Graphite on wove paper
Support: White, wove paper, watermarked '...MOTT/ ...11' [?WILMOTT 1811]
Dimensions: Sight size: 93 mm x 139 mm
Mount: 186 mm x 268 mm
Reference: LEEAG.1949.0009.0030
Credit Line: Bequeathed by Sydney Decimus Kitson,1949

This is a rapid but careful note of a plant with large, fleshy, arrow-shaped leaves, possibly identifiable as the common burdock (Arctium Minus). As Kitson 1937 notes, there is a faint inscription of colour notes by Cotman, lower left, but these are too faint to be legible.

Cotman made numerous studies of plants, generally of common weeds that typified his haunts as an artist. They occur throughout his career, but there is a particular group evidently made in the years of his first major etching projects beginning in 1810. The present example is on paper watermarked 1811. Kitson 1937 notes the similarity of the leaves here to those in a now-untraced watercolour called 'The Red Cloak' of c.1814, which was then in the collection of his nephew, Robert Hawthorn Kitson.

Leeds has another study of a similar plant (LEEAG.1949.0009.0440); less carefully drawn, but sufficiently close as make one wonder at the repetition.

This drawing is one of eleven mounted on one large sheet ('V') as acquired by Sydney Kitson in 1928. The group comprises of pencil drawings of trees and tree (or sequestered) landscapes, on a variety of papers, and evidently from a variety of sources. Between 1928 and 1937, Kitson mounted them all individually and gave them new numbers for the catalogue drawn up in the latter year [K291-301].

David Hill, August 2017