John Sell Cotman; Howden Church, Yorkshire

John Sell Cotman, East End of Howden Church, Yorkshire, c.1811, Etching, Leeds City Art Gallery, Bequeathed by Sydney Decimus Kitson, 1949.
Perhaps a loose connection, but John Sell Cotman’s ‘Howden Church Yorkshire’ is neither monstrous, nor an image of the nineteenth century’s production of man traps…however, what it does give us is one of the finest etchings of Yorkshire’s architecture by artist John Sell Cotman held at Leeds Art Gallery. And technically, all three figures in the etching would have been suitably manlike to experience a rather lethal injury in a man trap in the late nineteenth century when these were made for use. Tenuous, i am aware.

Perhaps instead we should acknowledge the quality of the work of a truly underrecognised artist who spent may many years producing works in and around Yorkshire. He was one of the very finest watercolourists that worked after the illustrious William Turner of 1775 – 1851.

This is a personal approach for me, as I live next door to this beautiful and still ruined (not by a minster trap) building. As the current intern working intimately with the Cotman Collection right now, I certainly hadn’t expected to find my neighbouring building amongst the artist’s etchings and even my rather miniature historic town of Howden repeatedly mentioned in his handwritten notes! An exhibition on the artist as soon as..? I think I shall take that on and no doubt we shall be seeing more of this talented artist at Leeds Art Gallery later in September of this year …

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