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You are hereHarvey-LeeHomeHarvey-LeeWeb ExhibitionsHarvey-LeeNorwich School IntroductionHarvey-LeeJohn Sell Cotman 02

John Sell Cotman
Norwich 1782 – 1842 London

Erpingham Gate, Norwich Cathedral

The Norwich School of Artists. John Sell Cotman, Norwich 1782 – 1842 London. South Gate Yarmouth. Original etching, 1812.

Erpingham Gate, Norwich Cathedral
Popham 185
379 x 250 mm (image plate); 31 x 177 mm (dedication plate)
Original etching, 1817.
The plate signed and dated.
Published by Cotman 1817-18.
Etched for the "Series of Etchings illustrative of the Architectural Antiquities of Norfolk".
On soft wove paper, small defects only affecting the extremities of the sheet.


The medieval Norwich Cathedral precinct was originally entirely encircled by walls.

The Erpingham Gate, built c1420-35, is the main entrance, opposite the west front of the cathedral, and was constructed as part of a unified scheme with the west porch. Cotman admired Piranesi and here uses small figures, in a similar way to the earlier Italian etcher, to emphasise the height and splendour of the architecture.

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Additional Information about the Artist

Cotman was the most prolific etcher of the Norwich School and said he wanted his etching to be “something well worth having lived for”.

In 1898, aged only sixteen, Cotman first moved to London and also visited Wales and Yorkshire as a watercolour painter. He returned to Norwich in 1806, where he was elected Vice-President of the Norwich Society of Artists. In 1812 he settled for some years in Yarmouth, returning to Norwich in 1823. His final eight years, from 1834, were spent in London.

It was in the ambience of the Norwich Society of Artists that Cotman took up etching. His first series of etchings was published in 1811. They were mainly Yorkshire subjects based on earlier drawings.

Cotman advertised an invitation to subscribe to A Series of Etchings illustrative of the Architectural Antiquities of Norfolk in 1811, and the etchings were issued in parts from 1812 and published as an entity in 1818.

His subsequent etched series were increasingly antiquarian in character, culminating in Architectural Antiquities of Normandy, published 1822. In Normandy Cotman was also fascinated by the street life and French beggars and made several related figure drawings, one of which he etched and is included in the Liber Studiorum.

It is Cotman’s thirty-nine soft-grounds, small picturesque, Romantic landscape studies, which are amongst his most appreciated prints today. Though made between 1810 and 1817 they were not published until 1838, when Henry Bohn issued them as the Liber Studiorum: A series of Sketches and Studies.

Two of the etchings in the Liber Studiorum were copies after the old masters; one after Rembrandt, the other after Teniers. However for his architectural subjects he took inspiration from Piranesi.

A further interesting and varied group of eight etchings, different from his other etchings in including romantic historical genre subjects, also makes a slight reference to Rembrandt, in a study of a figure in an interior which Popham calls The Student. Unpublished at all in his lifetime, the plates were issued in Norwich in 1846 by Charles Muskett as Eight Original Etchings by the late John Sell Cotman, now first published.

The other prints by Cotman in this exhibition are: