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Watercolour - Crambe Beck Bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire.  Formerly called 'Chirk Aqueduct'.
  • Crambe Beck Bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire. Formerly called 'Chirk Aqueduct'.
    Cotman, John Sell, born 1782 - died 1842
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Crambe Beck Bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire. Formerly called 'Chirk Aqueduct'.

  • Object:

    Watercolour

  • Place of origin:

    Great Britain (painted)

  • Date:

    1805 (painted)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Cotman, John Sell, born 1782 - died 1842 (artist)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Watercolour

  • Museum number:

    115-1892

  • Gallery location:

    Prints & Drawings Study Room, level H, case WD, shelf 21

The quality of this beautiful watercolour derives from the simplicity of its composition, three great arches of a viaduct standing alone in the countryside and the delicate play of washes that envelop it and suggest the fall of sunlight on the scene. Cotman does not show us the whole structure, but takes it up to its piers to suggest domination over the surrounding landscape. It is shown off-centre to suggest a progression of arches to the left and right. The strength and power of the structure are contrasted with the fragility of the rickety wooden fence glimpsed through the arches below.
Although the viaduct, designed and built by John Carr in 1785, was only 20 years old when Cotman painted it, some of the rendering that Carr had specified had already fallen off, revealing the long slabs of local stone beneath. Thus the structure had mellowed, and superficially resembled some of the ancient Roman aqueducts that were rendered in a similar way.

Physical description

Watercolour showing three arches of a viaduct crossing a stream.

Place of Origin

Great Britain (painted)

Date

1805 (painted)

Artist/maker

Cotman, John Sell, born 1782 - died 1842 (artist)

Materials and Techniques

Watercolour

Dimensions

Height: 31.6 cm, Width: 23.2 cm

Object history note

When this watercolour was acquired by the Museum in 1892, it was catalogued with the title `A viaduct'. It retained this title until the 1930s, and at some point after that was mistakenly identified as being an image of Chirk Aqueduct.

Descriptive line

Watercolour showing Crambe Beck Bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire, formerly called 'Chirk Aqueduct', 1805. John Sell Cotman

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

David Hill `Cotman in the North: watercolours of Durham and Yorkshire', New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2005. 185p. ill (some colour). ISBN 0300114044.
100 Great Painting in The Victoria & Albert Museum.London: V&A, 1985, p.94
p.121, pl.114
British watercolours : 1750-1950 / Katherine Coombs. London: V&A Publications, 2012

Labels and date

John Sell Cotman 1782-1842
Aqueduct, formerly identified as Chirk Aqueduct
About 1806-1807

Cotman was a leading figure in the Norwich school of watercolour painters. This is one of his key works. He toured Wales in 1800 and may have seen Chirk Aqueduct, near Wrexham. However, the imposing structure is probably the work of his imagination. Its monumentality is expressed by the implied infinity of the arches and the low viewpoint.

Pencil and watercolour on paper

Purchased 1892
Museum no. 115-1892 []

Production Note

For the identification of the location as Crambe Beck Bridge, near Kirkham, Yorkshire, rather than Chirk Aqueduct, see David Hill 'Cotman in the North: watercolours of Durham and Yorkshire', New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2005, pages 92-93.

Subjects depicted

Viaducts; Landscape

Categories

Drawings; Paintings

Collection

Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection

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