- Museum number
Chateau in Normandy, France; chateau in centre with cattle grazing to right, trees to left with pond in foreground, in blue shade of trees
Watercolour with graphite, some scratching out
- Production date
Height: 189 millimetres
Width: 223 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The composition of this watercolour is one which Cotman worked and reworked over a number of years, through various different versions. 1902,0514.36 is probably the last of all; in the catalogue of the Royal Academy exhibition in 1891, it was dated 'about 1835', which is probably accurate. A slightly different version of essentially the same composition, with more wispy trees at the extreme left, and less shadow on the foreground water is dated 1831. Now known as Blue Afternoon, it is inscribed on the back by Cotman ‘Near Bristol’ (National Gallery of Wales, Cardiff; repr. Magazine of Art, 1888, p. 400). A roughly similar building, with a tall gable-end reaching down into water, appears in the soft-ground etching Near Whitby, which was published as part of Cotman's Liber Studiorum in 1838; the plate was more likely made around 1814. Kitson owned a preparatory drawing for this etching dated that year (now at Leeds). He placed Cotman's trip to Whitby in 1804, the only time he is known to have visited the Yorkshire coast, where he joined the Cholmeleys, who were holidaying in Scarborough (S.D. Kitson, ‘The Life of John Sell Cotman’, 1937, pp. 76, 136). The building, in yet another transformation, made its first appearance in a watercolour of around 1809-10, ‘Classical landscape’, now in Norwich (M. Rajnai & M. Allthorpe-Guyton, ‘John Sell Cotman 1782-1842, Early Drawings (1798-1812) in Norwich Castle Museum’, Norfolk Museums Service, 1979, cat. 95). Rajnai has traced the germ of this architectural group even further back in Cotman's development, in a drawing made in Wales in 1800; through an intermediate study, Cotman proceeded with a metamorphosis which took the building from a humble Welsh farmhouse to something approaching a classical palace (ibid, cat. 4).
In 1824, Cotman exhibited at the Norwich Society a 'View of Whitby, Yorkshire, part of a series of designs intended to illustrate a work now publishing on landscape composition', which was presumably another version of the same image. Whether there was ever any strong likeness to any building in or near Whitby seems doubtful. How and why the title of ‘Chateau in Normandy’ became attached to the work also remains mysterious, but this may have been the intention; it is certainly more evocative than the association with Whitby, and the link with France may have appeared one way of acknowledging the debt to the landscapes of Poussin and Dughet. Rajnai also records an oil, entitled ‘Normandy’, in which the building is capped with gothic roofs (ibid., p. 80, n. 9).
The Reeve Collection includes two more reworkings of the same subject. 1902,0514.176 is a tracing on the same scale as the etching, but with some features of the architecture closer to the large Norwich watercolour than any of the other versions. Finally, the Landscape composition, 1902,0514.90 – a large, loose drawing, that places the group of buildings in a landscape of dense woodland – provides yet another variation on a motif Cotman seemingly found inexhaustible.
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].
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1888 Jul, Norwich Art Circle, 9th Exhibition, 'Drawings by John Sell Cotman', no.160
1888 Nov, London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, no.49
1891 London, Royal Academy, 'Winter Exhibition of Old Masters', no.68
1987 Feb 5-May 25, BM, 'An A-Z of P&D'
2005 Mar-Jul, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, 'John Sell Cotman: The Reeve Collection', no.79
- Acquisition date
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number