Chirk aqueduct | John Sell Cotman | 1807
Cotman was born in Norwich, England; and being 18, he moves to London to pursuit a career in art. But after 10 years, he returns to his city where, along with other painters, establishes the Norwich School. The group, constituted by self-taught artists of working class, gathered in a tavern and wanted to portrait the English landscape. The leaders of the movement could afford trips throughout the country and is in Chirk, in the border with Wales, where Cotman portraits its aqueduct.
In the painting, we can see the construction finished only 6 years before the trip of the artist. If we not look at the landscape of the aqueduct, we will see many trees and green vegetation on its surroundings. However, in Cotman’s painting, the in the lower area, we can look at the rest of the material left from the construction work. The artist’s landscape, in fact, lacks of any type of beauty. If we don’t pay attention to the background of the aqueduct, which points to a rural background, we are just going to see a construction that, although an engineering achievement, is plain ugly.
Many of the artist’s watercolors can reach up to the level of JMW Turner, but Cotman is almost unknown in the art world. The reason is that, while Turner worked in London, center of the art world, and made sure that many of his paintings reached several museums; Cotman isolated himself in Norwich until he died and his work was only exhibited outside the city in the year 2001.