On Cotman´s Trail in Normandy

John Sell Cotman is mainly known for his groundbreaking retinal and neoclassical approach to landscape painting which showed him as an early precursor of Cezanne. In contrast, his huge body of etchings enjoys a rather bad reputation. It is said that his printed works, which he mainly executed in commission of his patron Dawson Turner, a banker and amateur antiquary, exhausted his creative and physical resources. Especially the one hundred etchings that he accomplished from 1817 – 20 for Dawson Turner´s “Architectural Antiquities of the Normandy” are made responsible for an outbreak of depressions. The degradation of Cotman´s printed work neglects the fact that his revolutionary painterly views mainly derived from his experiences as a graphic artist. His Normandy series, where he operated for the first time with the mobile camera lucida, show him at the crest of his artistic development. Brigitte Pallast and Hans Lukas Lang, collaborators of the Melton Prior Institute, picked up the rather bulky travelogue from the collection and visited some of the spots that Cotman had depicted nearly two hundred years ago. The pictorial shows the meeting of two types of mobile cameras, the digital and the lit room one.

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