John Sell Cotman (1782–1842) was born and brought up in Norwich, but his arrival in London in 1798 coincided with Girtin’s newly established status as the rising star of watercolour painting. Not surprisingly, Cotman’s early works epitomise the profound influence that the slightly older artist had on his contemporaries. Although early biographers suggest that Cotman was a fellow member of the Sketching Society (co-founded by Girtin), his actual involvement in the group dates from a little later. However, watercolours such as On the Tees at Wycliffe (see comparative image TG1685) and St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, Dawn (see comparative image TG1727) suggest a close study of Girtin’s latest works; given Girtin’s reputation for readily allowing access to his studio, the younger artist may well have watched him at work. Cotman would also have come across Girtin’s work at the home of their mutual patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); indeed, a number of Cotman’s copies of the drawings that Girtin made in collaboration with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) have been identified, including Boats Beached in Dover Old Harbour (see comparative image TG0815).

1800 - 1801

Stepping Stones on the River Wharfe, near Bolton Abbey



Bristol Harbour, with St Mary Redcliffe in the Distance


1795 - 1796

Vessels in the Harbour at Dover, with the Castle Beyond