Alexander Cozens, 'Blot' Landscape Composition, a brown wash drawing

England, AD 1760s

Alexander Cozens (1717-86) described his 'blot' method for making ideal landscape drawings, in his book A New Method of assisting the Invention in Drawing Original Compositions of Landscape. This was published shortly before his death. The idea came to him when he was drawing master at Eton College. He found that accidental stains on a piece of paper stimulated the imaginations of his pupils. He had a large and loyal group of amateur followers, including two of the sons of George III (reigned 1760-1820) and his own son, John Robert Cozens.

According to Cozens, the ideal landscape drawing was made as instinctively as possible. The artist was to control his hand only in accordance with some 'general idea' which he should first have in his head. This done, the accidental shapes of the washes would suggest natural features to the artist. He could then elaborate or paint over them for the highly imaginative more finished drawing. The artist had thus 'invented' the compositions rather than drawn actual places.

Many of Cozens's drawings are impressive for his use of chiaroscuro (light and shade). Their intensity suggests the power and mystery of nature: his landscapes, nearly always devoid of figures, were designed to provoke specific personal responses in the viewer, including feelings of awe, surprise, melancholy and delight.

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More information


K. Sloan, A noble art: amateur artists a (London, The British Museum Press, 2000)

K. Sloan, Alexander and John Robert Coze (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1986)


Height: 160.000 mm
Width: 206.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1888-1-16-8 (27)



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