The Cotman Collection | Study of weeds Kirkstall

John Sell Cotman

Study of weeds Kirkstall

Artist: John Sell Cotman, British, 1782 - 1842
Title: Study of weeds Kirkstall
Date: 1803
Object name: Drawing
Medium: Graphite on wove paper
Support: Off-white, wove paper
Dimensions: Support: 175 mm x 152 mm
Reference: LEEAG.PA.1949.0009.0573
Credit Line: Bequeathed by Sydney Decimus Kitson, 1949

This is a careful graphite study of dock plants and perhaps some butterbur leaves. Cotman has inscribed the drawing with the location and occasion: 'Kirkstall/ July 28. 1803/ Sepr 21 1803'.

Cotman made other studies at Kirkstall Abbey near Leeds on his two visits in 1803; the Leeds collection includes a watercolour sketch of the interior of the chapter house (LEEAG.1995.0039.0029) and Cotman etched a view of the west front in 1811 for his series of 'Miscellaneous Etchings' published in the same year. Leeds has two impressions of the etching (LEEDM.E.1966.0005.0050, page 49, and LEEDM.E.2016.0053).

The inscription indicates that Cotman sketched the subject first on 28 July, and then returned to finish his study on 21 September. As Hill 2005, p.45 remarks, this appears to be excessive devotion to such a slight subject, and Cotman was probably mindful of the comic implications of his inscription. It is surprising that he managed to locate the subject again; perhaps even more so that it was sufficiently unchanged for the revisit to have been at all worthwhile. Given the effort invested in the sketch, it is a little disappointing that this detail did not find its way into the etching.

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, November 2017