View in a Flemish Town, after 1829
John Sell Cotman
watercolour over graphite with scraping out and opaque white on wove paper, laid down on cardboard
50.6 x 70 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 6205)
Cotman was a leader of the celebrated Norwich School, who in his later career wished to produce "works of splendour and imagination": large exhibition watercolours inspired by the popular continental street scenes of Prout. Many of them, including this view of Ulm, were based on watercolours by the amateur William Henry Harriott, allowing Prout to paint places he had never actually visited.When this work was exhibited in London in 1831, it was attacked for its violent colour, which the critic attributed to the craze for ever brighter hues designed to attract attention on the crowded exhibition walls. A comparison with a lithograph of Ulm by Prout reveals that Cotman took liberties with his view, adding steps to the Town Hall gables and changing the location and details of the fountain.