Alexander Cozens, 'Blot' Landscape Composition, a brown wash drawing


British Museum

British Museum

British landscape painter, Alexander Cozens (1717-86) described his 'blot' method as ideal for making landscape drawings. He documented this in his book A New Method of assisting the Invention in Drawing Original Compositions of Landscape. This was published shortly before his death. The idea came to him when he was drawing master at Eton College. He found that accidental stains on a piece of paper stimulated the imaginations of his pupils. He had a large and loyal group of amateur followers, including two of the sons of George III (reigned 1760-1820) and his own son, John Robert Cozens.
According to Cozens, the ideal landscape drawing was made as instinctively as possible. The artist was to control his hand only in accordance with some 'general idea' which he should first have in his head. The accidental shapes of the washes would then suggest natural features to the artist. He could elaborate or paint over them for a more imaginative finished drawing. The artist would then have 'invented' the landscapes rather than drawn actual places.
Many of Cozens's drawings show an impressive use of chiaroscuro (light and shade). Their intensity suggests the power and mystery of nature. His landscapes were nearly always devoid of figures. They were designed to provoke personal feelings in the viewer, including awe, surprise, melancholy and delight.

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  • Title: Alexander Cozens, 'Blot' Landscape Composition, a brown wash drawing
  • Date Created: 1732/1786
  • External Link: British Museum collection online
  • Technique: drawn
  • Subject: landscape
  • Registration number: 1888,0116.8.1-49
  • Producer: Drawn by Cozens, Alexander
  • Material: paper
  • Copyright: Photo: © Trustees of the British Museum