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This watercolour was made in 1803 on the first of Cotman's visits to Yorkshire to stay with the Cholmeley family at Brandsby Hall some fifteen niles north of York. It reveals a new interest in his work in the presentation of isolated motifs, and is one of the earliest drawings to show the emergence of his distinctive watercolour style. This style, seen especially in his watercolours made on the banks of the River Greta (no.86), is characterised by the use of carefully ordered areas of flat colour. Cotman drew the famous ruined Cistercian abbey at Rievaulx near Helmsley several times on his trip to North Yorkshire in 1803. This watercolour was etched by him for the series 'Miscellaneous Etchings' (1811).

September 2004