- Museum number
Collection of landscape studies, mainly in the 'blot' manner
Brush and brown or black wash, some with pencil
- Production date
- Curator's comments
- This group of 'blot' drawings by Alexander Cozens was purchased by the Museum in 1888 as 'A collection of forty nine rough sketches of landscape' from the dealer Fawcett with a smaller 'sketchbook' of five sheets (1888,0116.9. 1-5) which were mounted in the front of the present album by the Museum after the purchase. We cannot be certain which order the blots were in when purchased by the Museum but the paper they are mounted and drawn on is 18th century. There are all types of 'blots' ranging from fairly detailed sketches of landscapes to very rough ones, which he would describe as 'heavy rude black sketches'; very few are what we would describe as completely random, accidental blots. All show evidence that he had a landscape composition in mind when he sketched them with the brush, which is consistent with his teaching of the blot method. For Alexander Cozens's complicated systems of landscape composition, see K. Sloan, 'The Poetry of Landscape: Alexander and John Robert Cozens' (Yale, 1986).
For this album and similar ones purchased by his pupils at the 1794 Greenwood's sale, see K. Sloan and P. Joyner, 'A Cozens album in the National Library of Wales', Walpole Society Annual Volume LVII (1995), pp. 79-97.
The following entry appeared on the Explore section of the BM website until September 2015:
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.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1936 BM 'Canaletto to Constable', no no.
2016 3 Sep - 6 Nov, Poole Museum, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 48 (1888,0116.8.10 and 1888,0116.28)
2017 1 Jan - 25 Feb, The Brynmor Jones Library Art Gallery, University of Hull, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 48 (1888,0116.8.10 and 1888,0116.28)
2017 12 Mar - 5 May, Ulster Museum, Belfast, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 48 (1888,0116.8.10 and 1888,0116.28)
2017 May - Sep, New Mexico Museum of Art, Santa Fe, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 48 (1888,0116.8.10 and 1888,0116.28)
2017-2018 Oct - Jan, RISD Museum, Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, 'Lines of thought: Drawing from Michelangelo to now', no. 48 (1888,0116.8.10 and 1888,0116.28)
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Formerly bought at J.R. Cozens' sale.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number