John Sell Cotman (Norwich 1782-1842 London) Part of the Refectory of Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk
Lot 62
John Sell Cotman
(Norwich 1782-1842 London)
Part of the Refectory of Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk
Sold for £338,500 (US$ 452,826) inc. premium

Lot Details
John Sell Cotman (Norwich 1782-1842 London) Part of the Refectory of Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk
John Sell Cotman (Norwich 1782-1842 London)
Part of the Refectory of Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk
watercolour on paper
29.4 x 45.2cm (11 9/16 x 17 13/16in).

Footnotes

  • Provenance
    Francis Gibson of Saffron Walden, (d. 1860)
    His son-in-law, Rt Hon Lewis Fry MP (d. 1921)
    Lewis G. Fry (1860-1933)
    Dr L.S. Fry, and thence by descent through the family

    Exhibited
    Norwich, Norwich Society of Artists, 1811, no. 133, (Part of Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk – sketch for Cotman's Antiquities of Norfolk)
    London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, Exhibition of drawings in watercolour and in black and white by John Sell Cotman, 1888, no.32 (Interior of Walsingham Abbey)
    London, Tate Gallery, Exhibition of works by John Sell Cotman and some related painters of the Norwich School, 1922, no. 178 (Walsingham Abbey)
    Amsterdam, Stedelijk Museum, Twee eeuwen Engelse Kunst, 1936, no. 238

    Literature
    S.D. Kitson, The Life of John Sell Cotman, London, 1937, pp. 108-9, no. 297
    M. Hardie, Water-colour painting in Britain vol. II: The Romantic period, London, 1967, p. 83
    M. Rajnai and M. Allthorpe-Guyton, John Sell Cotman 1782-1842. Early drawings (1798-1812) in Norwich Castle Museum, London, 1979, p. 90

    The very fame of Walsingham Priory as the most celebrated pilgrimage site in Britain, surpassing even Beckett's shrine at Canterbury, ensured its almost complete destruction at the hands of Henry VIII. Of the church itself, only the east window was left standing; the partially demolished refectory alone remained, with its fine late 13th-century tracery and carved finials, to give any impression of the grandeur of the whole complex. Cotman first visited soon after his return to Norwich in 1806, and produced three of his boldest watercolours. The magnificent arch of the Priory window is now in the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, and the east window of the Refectory in the City Art Gallery, Leeds. The third is this view of the south wall of the Refectory, partially obscured by a great solid block, most likely lime for the building works which were taking place around 1807-8. The sense of mass, and the drama of the sharp silhouette owe a great deal to Girtin, but Cotman introduced his own personal twist on the fashion for the Picturesque ruin with a wealth of distracting incident: untidy stacks of planks, a tool sharpener, a rickety staircase. All put present human concerns before any reverence for antiquity.

    Cotman returned to Walsingham in July 1811; he was just embarking on his first set of etchings of Norfolk architecture and wanted to study these important remains afresh. His print of the same subject, 'Part of the Refectory of Walsingham Abbey' (fig. 1), was among the earliest to be completed, in 1812 (historically, it was never more than a priory, despite its familiar designation, then, and now). He took the earlier watercolour as a model, but cropped the more recent Abbey House, concentrating only on the mediaeval arches, accentuating their shape with the change to a vertical format. The print was dedicated to the owner of the house, Henry Lee Warner. It seems likely that the earlier watercolour was chosen by Cotman to draw attention to the forthcoming publication and exhibited at the Norwich Society in 1811, since neither of the other Walsingham subjects was etched.

    In 1831 Cotman was approached by the banker Francis Gibson of Saffron Walden, who had admired the latest watercolours exhibited in London. Cotman sold him several of his finest early productions, and Gibson continued to acquire new work from Cotman until the end of the decade. He was virtually the only regular client outside Norfolk in Cotman's entire career. His watercolours were lent by his descendants to every subsequent Cotman retrospective, beginning with London in 1888, then the Tate Gallery in 1922 and finally the bicentenary exhibition of 1982, although this particular work has not been seen in public for more than a generation. Kitson, in his 1937 biography of Cotman, refers to it twice, as 'that superb drawing' and 'the loveliest of the Walsingham drawings', an opinion which the passage of time has more than confirmed.

    We are grateful to Timothy Wilcox for preparing this catalogue entry.
Activities
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

For all Sales categories excluding Wine, Coins & Medals and Motor Cars and Motorcycles:

Buyer's Premium Rates
25% on the first £175,000 of the Hammer Price
20% from £175,001 to £3,000,000 the Hammer Price
12.5% from £3,000,001 of the Hammer Price

VAT at the current rate of 20% will be added to the Buyer's Premium and charges excluding Artists Resale Right.

Payment Notices

Payment in advance: by cash, cheque with banker's card, credit card, bank draft or traveller's cheque.

Payment at collection: by credit or debit card.

Credit card charges: a surcharge of 2% is applicable when using Mastercard, Visa and overseas debit cards.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licences please contact Bonhams Shipping Department.

Contacts
  1. Poppy Harvey-Jones
    Specialist - Old Master Paintings
    Bonhams
    Work
    101 New Bond Street
    London, United Kingdom W1S 1SR
    Work +44 20 7468 8308
    FaxFax: +44 20 7447 7439
Similar Items