British Drawings

  • chalk and ink drawing of landscape with cattle at dusk

    Thomas Gainsborough (1727–88)
    Landscape with Cattle on a Road Running through a Wooded Valley
    Black chalks, India ink wash and white gouache, on light brown tinted paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Witt Bequest, 1952

    Gainsborough's free and fluid handling of black chalk is evident in this late sheet. He does not record an actual location, but invents a generalized view of nature to evoke a pastoral ideal. Not intended for public viewing, Gainsborough's drawings were collected by connoisseurs who appreciated these private exercises of the imagination.

  • watercolor and ink image of a round castle tower in a landscape with river

    John Robert Cozens (1752–99)
    Castel Sant'Angelo, Rome
    Watercolor and gray ink washes over graphite
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Spooner Bequest, 1967

    An imposing fortress and prison on the banks of the Tiber River, the Castel Sant'Angelo was a favorite subject for artists working in Rome in the eighteenth century. Cozens has eliminated incidental detail, emphasizing instead the castle's forbidding bulk and its reflection in the water.

  • ink and watercolor image of seascape with clouds and town in distance

    Thomas Girtin (1775–1802)
    View of Appledore, North Devon, from Instow Sands
    c. 1798 (or 1800?)
    Brown ink and watercolor with touches of gouache over graphite, on coarse wrapping paper
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Witt Bequest, 1952

    Taking full advantage of the translucence of watercolor, Girtin builds up the design in distinct layers, allowing each stage of the composition's development to remain visible. Girtin's approach flouted contemporary academic practice, which encouraged artists to disguise all evidence of their labor. The coarse paper imparts a grainy texture to this beach scene.

  • watercolor, ink, and graphite drawing of landscape with large hills

    Francis Towne (1739–1816)
    The Forest of Radnor, with the Black Mountains in the Distance
    Watercolor, gouache, and gray ink washes, with some drawing with the point of the brush and pen in dark gray ink, over graphite
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Spooner Bequest, 1967

    The Forest of Radnor, a plateau in Wales used as a royal hunting ground in the medieval period, looms against clouds. Towne rendered the scene with his characteristically restricted palette of grays, greens, and blues. His delineation of form verges on abstraction, with detail excised in favor of planes of carefully modulated color. To create the long narrow format, Towne joined two sheets of a sketchbook.

  • graphite drawing of church building in ruins

    John Constable (1776–1837)
    East Bergholt Church, from the Southwest
    c. 1815–17
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Spooner Bequest, 1967

    Constable was born in East Bergholt, Suffolk. The local church, St. Mary’s, appears more often in the artist’s oeuvre than any other subject. This drawing of the unfinished tower is unusual in its size and finish, as Constable preferred to make small on-the spot studies in sketchbooks.

  • watercolor and chalk image of house on pond with hill in distance

    Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851)
    Colchester, Essex
    c. 1825–26
    Watercolor, white and colored chalks, and gouache, with scraping
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Gift in memory of Sir Stephen Courtauld, 1974

    In 1825 Turner was commissioned to produce designs for a series of engravings. Colchester shows the artist grappling with the challenges of producing watercolors intended for engraving. He developed a technique of layering careful finishes of stippling over color washes. The figures chasing a hare allude to the witch hunts that took place in Colchester during the English Civil War: according to rural tradition, witches could transform themselves into hares.

  • watercolor and red chalk image of seascape with red clouds, dog, and moon

    Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851)
    Dawn after the Wreck
    c. 1841
    Watercolor, gouache, and touches of red chalk with some rubbing out and scraping
    Samuel Courtauld Trust: Gift in memory of Sir Stephen Courtauld, 1974

    In spite of its title — invented by the Victorian critic John Ruskin — this watercolor does not directly depict the aftermath of a shipwreck. Several elements do, however, imbue the coastal scene with a sense of solitude and even despair: the intense crimson clouds, the “feeble blood-stain on the sand” (to quote Ruskin), and the lone howling dog.

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