Explorations in the footsteps of Turner, Cotman and Ruskin with Professor David Hill
This article considers the sixteenth work of twenty-five bought at Anderson & Garland Ltd, Newcastle upon Tyne, 21 March 2017, 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 consider a drawing of Little Casterton Church by a different hand to the main sequence of drawings discussed thus far.
This is a vigorously drawn landscape of a small church seen from the south-east across a pond or stream. The church has a twin bellcote a nave with aisles and clerestory, and a two-bay chancel with a large traceried east window. There are tall trees to the right of the church.
The subject is the Little Casterton Church seen from the banks of the River Gwash, which curves round to the right in front of us. The time of day must be late afternoon, in midsummer, with the sun far enough around to the north of west to illuminate the north wall of the chancel. It takes its place in a portfolio of drawings associated with the Twopeny family. The Revd. Richard Twopeny was rector of Little Casterton 1783-1843 and lived in the Old Rectory, just beyond the tall trees in the drawing.
Little Casterton is a few miles north of Stamford in Lincolnshire. The Twopeny portfolio includes a number of drawings made in and around the Old Rectory and the village.
The exact view of the present drawing is obscured today by trees, particularly along the banks of the river, but also by the growth of yews in the churchyard. There are a few other additional changes observable. The first is that the chancel has been extended since this drawing was made. Different sources give different dates but the south porch bears a date stone of 1837, indicating some substantial building work at that time. Such a date would fit well with the dates of other drawings in the portfolio, mostly 1820s or 1830s. A second, and perhaps surprising difference is that the drawing shows no grave monuments in the churchyard. When I was shown round the church by lifelong village resident Arthur Hinch on 6 February 2020, it was noticeable that there were few monuments predating the residency of Richard Twopeny.
This sheet stands apart from the main group of drawings in the portfolio which appear all to be by the same hand, on similar paper, and similarly mounted and inscribed. Some of the sheets are inscribed with a number, probably indicating the pagination of the original album.
It is not impossible that this drawing came from the same album, for it does have glue marks on the verso, but the style of the pencil work is much weaker than that of the main sequence, and is clearly a different hand. The others are attributed to David Twopeny whose life and associations directly links the subjects of Little Casterton and Rochester represented in the main sequence. One great strength of the main run of drawings lies in their particularised and aesthetically sophisticated treatment of trees and shrubs. Those here, however, are merely vigorously calligraphic.
Another strength of the main sequence is the sensitive and deft draftsmanship of the architecture. The treatment of the church here seems comparatively lacking in perspectival structure. That said, the depiction of the roof line of the nave is perfectly observed. Successive restorations have been unable to do very much to straighten the ridge, for its undulations follow the settlement of the magnificent fifteenth century timber roof below, with its wonderful array of carved bosses and angels.
Of the drawings that we have considered thus far, the sepia wash drawing of Tolethorpe Mill, discussed in the previous instalment, perhaps bears closest comparison as to pencil style. The foliage of the riverbanks is similar as is the firmness of application of the pencil. It does seem possible that both drawings could be by the same hand, albeit that the present drawing was made at an earlier stage of the artist’s development.
TO BE CONTINUED
Next, the Interior of Little Casterton Church