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The NGA lists John Postle Heseltine (1843-1929), a minor artist and art collector, as the first known owner of the work. How it came into his possession is not known. The work was later acquired by Hugh Blaker (1873-1936) for Leicester Galleries in London. The work was then purchased in March 1948 by the well-known art historian Lord Clark of Saltwood (also known as Sir Kenneth Clark), host of the 1969 BBC art history television series, Civilisation (Sotheby’s Art at Auction N. pag.). The work was acquired by the NGA on July 5, 1984, at Sotheby's auction of Sir Kenneth Clark's art collection, the year after Clark's death (“Mountain Landscape with a Hollow”).
The NGA currently lists the date of creation as 1770. Previously, the painting was dated as having been completed in 1785 from a blot drawing in Cozens' A New Method of Assisting the Invention in Drawing Original Compositions of Landscape (see, for example, Sotheby's Paintings and Works of Art from the Collections of the late Lord Clark of Saltwood, the catalogue for the 1984 Sotheby's auction at which the NGA purchased this piece). In addition, Cozens critic A.P. Oppé writes that this is one of "four drawings formed from the 13th of the blots in...[Cozens'] New Method" (Oppé 93). Cozens' A New Method was published in 1785, and Andrew Wilton and Anne Lyles also date Mountain Landscape with a Hollow as having been created in 1785 in their 1993 catalogue that accompanied the 1993 exhibit of the painting at the NGA: "This drawing is a version of Blot drawing no. 13 in A New Method, 1785-6" (Wilton, Lyles 302). The NGA cannot account for this fifteen-year discrepancy in creation dates (Jecmen).
This work may have been developed using Cozens' blot system, which Cozens used in creating many of his landscapes. Martin Hardie explains that Cozens "hit on the blot method quite accidentally when, sketching on a stained piece of paper, he found himself working the form of the stain into his composition. He then tried deliberately making the stains, and then took to using a very dark ink on the blot, and tracing from it on varnished paper for the finished drawing" (Hardie 84-5).
1948 Leicester Galleries, London, Works from the Hugh Blaker Collection, March 1948, no. 44.
1954-5 Royal Academy, Winter Exhibition, 1955-5, no. 542.
1993 The Great Age of British Watercolours 1750-1880, Royal Academy of Arts, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, DC 1993, no. 84.
Lower left in gray ink on mount: Alex. Cozens.; lower left verso typed on sheet glued to mount: Cozens. Landscape. Blaker.; cCvin graphite: L+74-L2..7.0 the pair; uRr//in gray ink: 13 (“Mountain Landscape with a Hollow”).
Edition and State
According to Andrew Wilton and Anne Lyles, "this drawing is a version of Blot drawing no. 13 in A New Method, 1785-6." (302). However, if the date of creation was 1770, as the NGA lists, the painting could not have been developed from a blot in 1785 (unless, of course, both Blot drawing no. 13 and Mountain Landscape with a Hollow were both created in 1770, but not made public until fifteen years later).
Cozens may have been teaching at Eton College in London at the time of its creation, as Cozens' "connection with Eton College" roughly covered "a period of...fifteen years...from 1760 to 1775" (Sloan, "New Chronology: Part II" 359). Christopher White and Andrew Wilton both place Cozens at Eton "from 1763 to 1768" (White 14; Wilton 182). A.P. Oppé writes that "the dates when Cozens' appointment as drawing master at Eton began and ended cannot be fixed with certainty....It is, however, certain that he was there in 1766, for he is mentioned as an extra master for drawing in a manuscript list of the staff....It is even possible that the year of his appointment may have been 1763" (Oppé 26). In addition, "a daybook of Pote the publisher and stationer at Eton covering the years 1771-74...shows Cozens as an occasional customer" (Oppé 27).
In 1952, A.P. Oppé wrote that this painting "is almost identical, save for the washes, with the 'Chinese contoured' example at the British Museum. Another version which differs slightly is at Leeds. A fourth, also mounted and signed, is in the collection of Mr. Mallord Turner and is thought to have come, with a companion, from the collection of J.M.W. Turner" (Oppé 93).
Specific location unknown; (probably imaginary) mountain and hollow. This may have been developed from one of Cozens's ink blots. Frequently, Cozens' landscapes were imaginary and developed using his blot system, described above. Of Mountain Landscape with a Hollow, Oppé writes: "Here...there is a restrained richness and intricacy of detail within a general effect of the utmost simplicity. In this composition the varied foreground demanded the larger masses of background hills to complete the design" (Oppé 93-4). In Cozens' The Various Species of Landscape &c. In Nature, Cozens lists 16 compositions, 14 objects, and 27 circumstances that a painter may use and reuse in creating landscapes. Although Cozens never completed work on this project beyond these lists, Charles Davy, who was familiar with the list, pursued the project (Sloan, Alexander and John Robert 56). "Davy may also have intended it [the elaboration] as a means of illustrating Cozens's interest in the connection between poetry and painting, but, as may be seen from the transcription below, each line also gives a hint of the intended reaction of the spectator to each composition" (56). For example, "The Edge of a hill or a mountain that's near" is supposed to evoke "attention, caution, awe, expectation of an extensive country," and "a hollow or chasm" may evoke "greatness, awe, suprize, danger" (56).
The sublime; Nature
In considering Cozens's method and works and their relevance to (or disjunction with) Romanticism, Charles A. Cramer suggests that "both the method of blotting and the product seem utterly anomalous to the contemporaneous context of the highly rational classicism of the newly founded Royal Academy under the presidency of Joshua Reynolds" (Cramer 113). Furthermore, Cramer argues that "symptomatically, art historians have had the utmost difficulty in dealing with Cozens and his blots, tending to displace them to nearly any period and culture other than his own....The problem underlying these...attempts to account for Cozens's work is the emphasis placed on the final formal appearance...to the exclusion of... the artistic process" (113). Although some of Cozens' contemporaries were dismayed by Cozens' blot method, relatively recent public reevaluations have been more positive. Martin Hardie writes that "Cozens' aims and methods were distorted by the jealousy and ineptitude of unsuccessful and malicious artists, and [Edward] Dayes' contemptuous description of Cozens as 'Blotmaster to the town' was widely circulated" (84). Hardie argues that "in Cozens' drawings the romantic in literature and art are linked, but a fine sense of design and a genuine feeling for the sublimity and grandeur of the mountain scenery...raises his work above the lifeless merit of the average classical composition" (83). Hardie points out that "public attention was really drawn for the first time to the importance of Cozens' work by the Historical Collection of British Water-colours, an exhibition organised by the Walpole Society at the Grafton Galleries at the end of 1911" (81). Since then, Alexander Cozens’ significance to watercolor painting in the eighteenth century—including his influence on his peers and his methods—have been given greater attention. Andrew Wilton and Anne Lyles explain that "Cozens equated types of landscape with different states of mind" (37). Kim Sloan also suggests that Cozens may have had a moral aim in liking varieties of landscape to varieties of human emotions: "by arousing such emotions or characteristics as silence, cheerfulness, unity of idea, protection, delight...and above all, liberty" Cozens may have been hoping to create "moral landscapes which could...benefit society by making man more at ease with himself" (Sloan, Alexander and John Robert 60). Sloan also suggests that Cozens' "reasons for choosing landscape were...the association of sublime landscape with Epic or Heroic poetry and of picturesque and beautiful landscape with Pastoral poetry—a constant theme in eighteenth-century aesthetic writing" (60).
“Cozens, Alexander.” Mountain Landscape with a Hollow. The Collection. National Gallery of Art. 30 June 2003
Cozens, Alexander. "A New Method of Assisting the Invention in Drawing Original Compositions of Landscape." Rpt. in Alexander and John Robert Cozens, with a reprint of Alexander Cozens' A New Method of assisting the invention in drawing original Compositions of Landscape. Ed. A.P. Oppé. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1952. 165-187.
Cozens, Alexander. "A New Method of Assisting the Invention in Drawing Original Compositions of Landscape." Rpt. in Nineteenth Century Theories of Art. Ed. Joshua Taylor. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. 63-71.
Cramer, Charles A. "Alexander Cozens's New Method: The Blot and General Nature." The Art Bulletin 79 (1997): 112-29.
Hardie, Martin. Water-coulour Painting in Britain. vol 1: The Eighteenth Century. Eds. Dudley Senlgrove, Jonathan Mayne, and Basil Taylor. London: B T Batsford, Ltd. 1966. 78-87.
Jecmen, Gregory D. Assistant Curator, Department of Old Master Prints, NGA. “Re: Alexander Cozens’ Mountain Landscape with a Hollow.” E-mail. 2 July 2003.
"Mountain Landscape with a Hollow." The Collection. The National Gallery of Art. 1 June 2003 .
Oppé, A. P. Alexander and John Robert Cozens, with a reprint of Alexander Cozens' A New Method of assisting the invention in drawing original Compositions of Landscape. London: Adam and Charles Black, 1952.
Sloan, Kim. "Alexander Cozens." The Grove Dictionary of Art Online. Ed. L. Macy. 5 June 2003
Sloan, Kim. Alexander and John Robert Cozens: The Poetry of Landscape. Art Gallery of Ontario. New Haven: Yale UP, 1986.
Sloan, Kim. "A New Chronology for Alexander Cozens. Part I: 1717-59." The Burlington Magazine. 127 (1985): 70-75.
Sloan, Kim. "A New Chronology for Alexander Cozens. Part II: 1759-86." The Burlington Magazine. 127 (1985): 354-61, 363.
Sotheby's. Art at Auction: The Year at Sotheby's 1983-84. Ed. Tim Ayers. London: Sotheby's, 1984. N. pag.
Sotheby's. Paintings and Works of Art from the Collections of the Late Lord Clark of Saltwood, O.M., C.H., K.C.B. London: Sotheby's, 1984. no. 193.
Taylor, Johsua C. "Alexander Cozens." Nineteenth Century Theories of Art. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987. 62-3.
White, Christopher. "Alexander Cozens." English Landscapes 1630-1850: Drawings, Prints & Books from the Paul Mellon Collection. An Exhibition: April 19-July 17, 1977. New Haven: Yale Center for British Art, 1977. 14.
Wilton, Andrew. The Art of Alexander and John Robert Cozens. New Haven, CT: Yale Center for British Art, 1980. 31-37, 64.
Wilton, Andrew and Anne Lyles. The Great Age of British Watercolours 1750-1880. Exh. cat. Royal Academy of Arts, London; National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C., 1993. 36-9, 302.