Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
This is the fourth work of twenty-five bought in a lot of Sundry Drawings and Watercolours, offered at Anderson & Garland Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 March 2-17, lot 46 as Various Artists (British 19th Century) Sundry drawings and watercolours, mainly topographical and floral studies, including a grisaille “South Gate Lynn, Norfolk”, bearing the signature J.S. Cotman, various sizes, all unframed in a folio. It is the second initialled by David Twopeny.This is a meticulous pencil drawing of a medieval gateway. Its general shape is that of a cube, the angles surmounted by circular angle turrets, and the centre of the main elevation finished with a circular turret surmounted by a ribbed dome. The principal vehicular arch is to the right, with a secondary, pedestrian arch immediately left. The left half of the building appears to function as a house. There is an entrance doorway under a square drip moulding, immediately left of the pedestrian arch. All the windows except for one have similar square drip mouldings and appear almost randomly distributed. At the far left there are two, one above the other, which appear to be regularly placed in ground and first floor rooms. Above those is another offset to the right. Another above the entrance door lacks the drip moulding, and above right are two more windows, one larger than any of the others, and another, smaller, seemingly let into the other. Beneath the smaller window is a large gargoyle, debouching over the vehicular gate.
The subject is the Newark or Magazine Gate in Leicester. This was built around 1400 as the imposing gateway to the religious college precinct of the church of the annunciation of St Mary ‘The Newarke’. It served as a munitions store in the Civil War. It survives almost unchanged from its representation here, except for the removal of the flanking walls and the fact that the surroundings have recently been completely redeveloped with buildings of De Monfort University. Heaven knowns, it must be thinking, what companions will be dreamt for it next.
The drawing is initialled and dated ‘D.T. 1824’, and makes an obvious pair to the drawing of Northborough Manor also in the portfolio (see part #3). The artist can be identified as David Twopeny, a member of the then-extensive Twopeny family hailing from Rochester in Kent. I gave an overview of the family connections in part#3, and in subsequent parts will have occasion to further explore the family and its geographical associations.
For now, however, it is sufficient to note that David Twopeny was twenty-one when he made this, and in the year of his graduation from Oriel College, Oxford. He must have made this study on the same tour as that of Northborough Manor, only 35 miles away. The style is disciplined, observant, meticulous and very well practiced as an architectural draftsman. It is a fine example of the style of drawing, characterised by hooks and dashes, popularised in the 1790s by Edward Dayes and his circle, and adopted by a generation of professionals and amateurs in the later 1790s and first couple of decades of the nineteenth century. The draftsmanship here is not dissimilar to that adopted, for example, by John Sell Cotman in many of his Antiquarian etchings in the period 1810-20.
In fact when one studies the technique closely, it becomes clear that Twopeny might well have learned his style principally from copying etchings. His method of creating shade is exactly [and exclusively] that of line etching. Where one’s only mark is a line, then tone can only be obtained by increasing the density of the lines, or cross hatching. Strikingly parallel lines are exactly the preferred method of John Sell Cotman in his Architectural etchings 1810-20. Cotman used hatching in early work but preferred clean parallel lines in his more advanced efforts. The same method is shared by several antiquarian etchers of the period, but given the association already of Cotman with this portfolio, it is perhaps sufficient to suspect that David Twopeny might have been familiar with Cotman’s etched work.
Another Cotmanesque virtue that David Twopeny shares is an endless patience of application to detail. It takes quite a specially undistracted degree of attention to draw fence palings such as these. And perhaps a mordant sense of the significance of this detail. Why one would fence off such a corner in this way. Presumably to prevent it being used for anything approaching bucolic practice?
By the 1820s, however, this style would have seemed old-fashioned and only favoured by amateur antiquarians, or very provincial professionals. This is easily good enough to be by a professional, although there is, one would have to say, very little seeking after Romantic effect.
TO BE CONTINUED:
The present drawing is numbered on the verso “18)”. Northborough Manor is numbered “11)”. Similar numbering occurs on several drawings in the portfolio – but not all – suggesting that they might have been bought as a series. Most of the numbered drawings remain mounted on pages of an album, suggesting that they are all by the same hand. In the next part we will begin an examination of the other numbered drawings in the sequence. A full collation of the numbers will be established in due course