Boats off the Coast, Storm Approaching by John Sell Cotman (1782-1842). 1830. Watercolour over traces of graphite, with gouache (bodycolor), scratching out, stopping out, and gum arabic. Dimensions: Sheet: 18 9/16 × 25 11/16 in. (47.2 × 65.2 cm). Collection: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, accession no. 2017.75. Credit Line: Purchase, Charles and Jessie Price Gift, 2017. Image and caption material, courtesy of the Met Museum, New York, which identifies the image as being in the public domain. Image downloaded, caption material added, and formatting by Jacqueline Banerjee. Click on the image to enlarge it.

The Met Museum explains,

As he approached fifty, Cotman abandoned oil painting after a number of his works failed to sell and instead refocused his ambitions on watercolor. This luminous seascape demonstrates his mature mastery of the medium. The fishing boat threatened by a storm may allude to the artist’s personal struggles, but more obviously it pays tribute to J. M. W. Turner’s famous painting Dutch Boats in a Gale (1801; National Gallery, London), as both works are centered on a sharply canted, golden-sailed fishing boat, distant warship, and looming clouds. More generally, Cotman is declaring his admiration for seventeenth-century Dutch seascapes while also demonstrating how watercolors can effectively convey effects of light and weather. To produce the milky, foam-topped waves, for example, he experimented with mixing flour paste into his washes.


Boats off the Coast, Storm Approaching. The Met. Web. 3 March 2022.

Created 3 March 2022