A dismasted brig; rough sea with ship in distress in centre, another ship to right Watercolour with graphite
- Height: 201 millimetres
- Width: 310 millimetres
Inscription ContentAccording to the register, inscribed verso by J. Reeve, "Mrs Dalrymple has a drawing of this same subject by M.E.Cotman".
On his return to Norwich in 1806, Cotman began producing shipping scenes for the Norwich exhibitions, based largely on views of Cromer, Wells and Blakeney. These came to a halt after 1810, when he began to devote himself almost exclusively to etching and to architectural subjects until the completion of' The Architectural Antiquities of Normandy' in 1822. After that date there are again shipping scenes in oil (e.g. Dutch prizes off Yarmouth, British Institution 1823) and watercolour (Boats off the coast, Sotheby's 21 March 2002, lot 168, dated 1830).
‘A dismasted brig’ is generally dated to the end of the earlier period, that is, around 1809-10. Kitson, however, dated it 1823 (S.D. Kitson, ‘The Life of John Sell Cotman’ 1937, p.255). Comparison with the oil paintings of maritime subjects which might relate to this watercolour could be made to support either view. ‘Sea view (Fishing boats)' in the Norwich Museum relates to the Turner Liber Studiorum subjects Cotman copied, which were published in 1809. Moore, however, dates this oil and another, ‘After the storm’, which is rather different in style and more brilliant in its palette (Moore, ‘John Sell Cotman 1782-1842, Bicentenary Exhibition Catalogue’, Norfolk Museums Service, 1982, p.147, cat.154) to ‘c.1820s'. It is, however, equally possible that the ‘Sea View' is a painting contemporary with ‘A dismasted brig’ and belongs to the early period, while ‘After the Storm' with its intense colours and more mannered design, dates from the late 1820s or early 1830s. There is, indeed a close visual parallel between ‘A dismasted brig’ and ‘The Leader Sea Piece’, one of the 1809 plates in the Liber (G. Forrester, ‘Turner's Drawing Book, the Liber Studiorum', Tate Publishing 1996, cat.20).
Cotman did not move to Yarmouth until 1812. He had paid occasional visits to his patron Dawson Turner there since at least 1806. When he came to take up residence in the town, he was already so enthusiastic about the sea and shipping he now found on his very doorstep that he was inclined to call his new home a ‘paradise' in a letter to Francis Cholmeley, except, ‘I cannot call it paradise for I have no authority sacred or profane that introduce ships of any kind into that region of delight' (Cholmeley Archive, p.53). The large numbers of drawings of the coast and of shipping in the British Museum collection and among the many small sketches at Leeds reveal Cotman's love of this subject; only for a tiny proportion of them, though, did these drawings lead to finished works.
This drawing was included in the 2005 exhibition: Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, 'John Sell Cotman: The Reeve Collection', for which there is an online exhibition catalogue on the Norwich Castle website [http://www.museums.norfolk.gov.uk/Visit_Us/Norwich_Castle/Past_Exhibitions/2005/Cotman_in_the_British_Museum/index.htm].
First reproduced in 'Cotman' by L. Binyon, Studio Special Number, Summer 1903, C24
British Roy PV
1934 BM, Exhibition of English Art, no.370 ('Seascape') 1960 Oct, Bedford, Cecil Higgins AG, 'John Sell Cotman 1782-1842', no.44 1972 Oct, BM, The Art of Drawing, no.326 1982 Aug-Oct, London, V&A, 'Cotman', no. 78 1982 Nov-Dec, Manchester, Whitworth Art Gallery, 'Cotman', no. 78 1982-1983 Dec-Jan, Bristol Art Gallery, 'Cotman', no. 78 1985 BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.128 1991 Jan-Mar, Ohio, Cleveland Mus of Art, BM English Watercolours, no. 58 1991 Mar-June, N Carolina Mus of Art, BM English Watercolours, no. 58 2002 Feb-May, BM, 'John Sell Cotman; The Poetry of Nature', no cat
2005 Mar-Jul, Norwich, Castle MAG, Cotman: Reeve Collection, no.58
2013-14 Nov-Apr, London, National Maritime Museum, 'Turner and the Sea'
2014 Jun-Sep, Salem, Peabody Essex Museum, 'Turner and the Sea'
In the 1982 exhibition catalogue, Rajnai states that the artist purchased back this drawing at Bulwer's sale, 11 May 1836, lot 49. Lot 49 was in fact a work by Cattermole. The only other possible candidate for this work is lot 42, 'A small sea piece with vessels', sold for 11/- to Shirley.
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Object reference number: PDB8663
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