A great Cotman always jolts one with a kind of delighted surprise. It is not just a question of poetic response to a particular subject, though one does feel grateful that such frequent attraction towards the romantic picturesque can be expressed with such taut, spare elegance. The surprise is formal: the refined but vigorous individuality of the handwriting; the clean-cut clarity of vision; above all that indefinable sense of an inspired mise-en-pave — unexpected, dramatic, graceful, unfussed, unfailingly ‘right’. With the hindsight of a later age we tend to say that what excites us is something ‘abstract’ about Cotman’s power of design. It is a dangerous word to use when what we refer to is an ability to convey complex representational information with daring economy of means. But it is true that Cotman’s ‘new style’ was too daring, too self-conscious and private to make much sense to most of the lay audience of his own day — Thompson 17


Drawings, studies, etchings


Binyon, Laurence. John Crome and John Sell Cotman. London: Seeley & Co./New York: Macmillan, 1897. Internet Archive. Contributed by the University of Michigan. Web. 3 March 2022.

Thompson, David. "Cotman: romantic classicist." John Sell Cotman, 1782-1842. London: Herbert Press, 1982. Ed. Miklos Rajnai. 17-20.

Created 3 March 2022