Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
This is the sixth of twenty-five drawings bought 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.
Here we continue to examine a series of fine pencil drawings, all once mounted in an album, and numbered in the original sequence.This is a confident yet sensitive pencil drawing of a large, rambling, medieval country house. The house is flanked in the foreground by an oak tree to the left and a conifer to the right, and consists of a twin-gabled three-storey wing to the left, connecting two storey wing with twin elaborate chimneys, a central single-gable wing, the same height as that to the left, a second two-storey connecting wing with a central oriel and gothic windows on the ground floor, terminating at the right with a battlemented gatehouse, with a small gothic entrance below. The ground floor is covered in ivy and other shrubbery, a solitary figure walks left below the central gable and a flight of birds wheels from the roof at the right.
The subject is the south or garden front of Broughton Castle, Oxfordshire. The house is not far from the town of Banbury. The main part of the house, running laterally across the composition, dates to the fourteenth century, but the two staircase towers under gables were added in the sixteenth. This aspect of the house survives today almost exactly as depicted in this drawing. Broughton Castle is home to the 21st Lord and Lady Saye & Sele, whose family name is Fiennes. The ownership of the Castle has remained in the same family since 1447. There is a photograph of this front from further to the left on the Broughton website, but taking a photograph myself from exactly the right spot will have to wait until the house reopens in the spring.
The drawing contains no direct indication of the identity of the artist, but the authorship of David Twopeny can be inferred with some confidence. The style is consistent with, but rather more mature than, the two other drawings in the portfolio, initialled and dated 1824 that can certainly be given to him.
An introduction to David Twopeny and the wider Twopeny family is given in part 3. The two initialled drawings are numbered 11) and 28) and the present drawing is numbered 10) in the same sequence. This drawing is the second in a fine sequence works in similar style that appear as we will see to have been mounted onto the pages of an album. The numerical sequence is incomplete in the portfolio, but a collation of the surviving leaves will be attempted in due course.
There is no indication of date on this drawing. It is more mature than the drawings already considered of 1824, and unique in the series in being drawn on toned paper. David Twopeny took his master of arts at Oriel College, Oxford in 1827 and it seems possible that the present drawing was made on an expedition from his alma mater. The style is very accomplished. It is a fine example of the style of drawing, characterised by hooks and dashes in the vegetation, and clean, brilliantly placed line work, that was 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.
In this case the treatment of the tree to the left is something of a tour de force, and something of which the young Turner might have been proud. The drawing of the architecture is meticulous but also as self-consciously delicate and sensitive as the work of young Cotman. Although by the late 1820s this style would have been considered somewhat old-fashioned and provincial, one would certainly say that the artist could have earned a reputation as a draftsman, even if the artistic wheel of fashion had turned significantly since this style was cutting edge.
One strong feature of this series of drawings, however, is its very lack of pretention. Cotman had earlier, from about 1805, tried to take an artistic position on such ground, to great aesthetic effect, but to very little personal gain. Clearly, however, the artist of these drawings shared a similar philosophy. In one respect, however, there is an aesthetic relevance here central to its time. The 1820s were one of the most dynamic periods of change in British social history. Along with that came a sense that values and virtues were being forgotten. At the time of this drawing, for example, this house had been largely abandoned by its owners for a more fashionable lifestyle. The house was by several reports mouldering in neglect, a process that culminated in a complete clearout sale in 1837, even down to the swans that lived on the moat. At the moment depicted here, it was a forgotten place, a place mostly serving as a pigeon roost, except for when the occasional interested antiquary came by and disturbed them.
TO BE CONTINUED:
Little Casterton and Woodstock