DETAIL: John CONSTABLE,  Great Britain 1776 � 1837  'Harwich Lighthouse' c.1820 oil on canvas Tate, London, gift of Maria Louisa Constable, Isabel Constable and Lionel Bicknell Constable in 1888 Tate, London 2005
John CONSTABLE | Album of fifteen drawings after Alexander Cozens

Great Britain 1776 – 1837
Album of fifteen drawings after Alexander Cozens c.1823
pen and brown ink over faint pencil, with grey wash
album 32.1 (h) x 43.1 (w) cm
page 11.4 (h) x 18.6 (w) cm
Tate, London, purchased as part of the Oppe Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund in 1996
VIEW: Article |

While staying with Sir George Beaumont at Coleorton Hall in October–November 1823 Constable made these copies of etchings by Alexander Cozens (1717–1786), his Various Species of Composition in Nature sixteen subjects in four plates, with Observations and Instructions in Beaumont’s collection. Constable’s drawings differ from the set of Cozens’s etchings in the collection of the British Museum in showing additional tonal areas of grey wash, which add atmosphere and chiaroscuro not found in the originals. In making these drawings more than thirty years after Cozens’s death Constable showed his admiration for the work of this late eighteenth-century artist and for his passion for categorising and interpreting nature. He also acknowledged Beaumont’s affection for Cozens, his drawing master at Eton.

At Coleorton Constable also studied Cozens’s list of twenty-seven types of ‘Circumstance’ in nature, consisting of accidents (wind, rain, storm etc.), seasons (spring, autumn etc.) and characters (time of day such as ‘rising-sun’, ‘setting-sun’, and ‘close of day’). In addition – a few years after he had made his cloud studies from nature at Hampstead – Constable made copies (now in the collection of the Courtauld Institute of Art Gallery, London) of Cozens’s twenty engravings of skies. Cozens’s skies were not scientific studies of the appearance of clouds, but offered selections and combinations that an artist could adopt in various combinations for their own purpose.

Fifteen of Constable’s drawings after Cozens’s etchings are in this album and his sixteenth drawing after theetchings, inscribed ‘A Spacious or extensive Landscape’, is now in the Fogg Art Museum, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Constable also knew of Cozens’s famous ‘blot technique’ of composing landscapes and made some ‘blot-like’ drawings himself, such as Stoke-by-Nayland, Suffolk c.1829–35   and View on the Stour, Dedham Church in the distance c.1832–36  .

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