Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
This is the eleventh 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.
Here we conclude working through a sequence of five fine pencil drawings, all dated 1828, once mounted in an album, and some numbered in the original page order.This is the last of five drawings all by the same hand, on similar paper and similarly mounted and inscribed. It is the final drawing of four showing Woodstock Park near Sittingbourne in Kent. The first is dated 15 July 1828 and this is dated two days later.
None of the drawings is signed, nor is their authorship otherwise identified, but the geographic spread of subjects points to their being by a member of the Twopeny family. Woodstock was the family seat of the Twopeny family. We explored the family context in previous instalments, and also the possibility of the drawings being by David Twopeny.
The present drawing is a painstakingly drawn landscape of a boy, or young man seated on the ground in the left foreground, with a basket on the ground behind him and a dog paying close attention in front. He surveys an open sheep-cropped parkland, looking across a shallow open valley to a low hill covered in mature parkland trees. There is a group of three figures in the left distance and another solitary figure to the right of a large tree in the centre.
In its quiet way it is the triumph of the artist’s study of Woodstock’s trees. The sheep-cropped parkland studded with mature trees is the principal subject of the four drawings in this series, and here it is given panoramic treatment.
The sheet was made by joining two separate pieces of paper, and the result, though by no means large by wider artistic standards, is ambitious within the context of this series. It was clearly meant as a major statement and indeed proved too large for the sheets on which the drawings were subsequently mounted. In this case the drawing had to be folded to fit within the format of the page. We may further infer that the page was in an album, and from that, that the numbers on the back probably record the original pagination. This was mounted as number ‘2’. The order was certainly not chronological, so we may presume that there was some aesthetic order, and that this subject stood high amongst those priorities.
The artist seems to have quite an advanced aesthetic framework. This is an essay in the naturalistic pastoral of which Constable might have been proud. That said, this was still a somewhat esoteric area. Sophisticated reticence and retiring character was hardly ever much to the taste of the popular market. Cotman could not make a success of it, and even John Constable had to wait until the following year, 1829 to be elected a member of the Royal Academy. The portfolio hints at an awareness of Cotman, but beyond that we have little to go on, however interesting it would be to establish something more of the artist’s field of reference.
To be continued:
One more Woodstock subject, but of a very different kind.