John Sell Cotman


11 June 2018 - 19 January 2020


Free with admission price


Disabled visitors / Blue Badge parking / Parking / Dogs / Multi-sensory / Virtual tours / Audio enscribed / Braille / Staff on hand 

Opening times:

Mon – Sat: 10am – 4.30pm 
Sun: 1 – 4.30pm 

A chance to explore the last two decades of Cotman's life through iconic late watercolours and rarely seen drawings.

One of the most original watercolourists of the nineteenth century, John Sell Cotman (1782-1842) is justly celebrated for the ground-breaking watercolours he made after visiting Yorkshire in 1803, 1804 and 1805.  His later work, however, is less known.  The drawings and watercolours in this exhibition focus on the last two decades of Cotman’s life and introduce an artist who never tired of experimenting and innovating to a wider audience.

Born in Norwich, in 1798 Cotman moved to London where his landscape watercolours found a degree of success. In 1806 he returned to his native city, where he struggled for recognition among more established landscape painters and drawing masters.  In 1812 he reluctantly relocated to Great Yarmouth where he spent nearly twelve years concentrating almost entirely on etching.

In December 1823 Cotman left Great Yarmouth for Norwich and set himself up as a drawing master, remaining in the city for the next ten years.  Although he enjoyed some critical acclaim, popular and financial success did not follow.  As a result, he felt underappreciated by the Norwich public and was delighted to return to London in early 1834, when he obtained a teaching position at the recently-founded King’s College.  Thrilled at his appointment, Cotman wrote to his patron Dawson Turner:  "My mode of teaching shall be … to gain the love and respect of my pupils. They are and shall be my best friends."

Although successful as a teacher, Cotman never achieved fame as an artist, something he ardently wished for and which had appeared to be within his grasp during his first London period.  It was not until the early twentieth century that his work finally achieved the recognition it rightfully deserved.