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Competing artists encouraged to take inspiration from the Norwich School masters

PUBLISHED: 07:00 14 October 2016

Artist James Colman paints the city from his canoe ready for Paint Out Norwich, where it is hoped the artists will be inspired by the river and the Norwich School paintings. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Artist James Colman paints the city from his canoe ready for Paint Out Norwich, where it is hoped the artists will be inspired by the river and the Norwich School paintings. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Copyright: Archant 2016

The Norwich School painters were famous for their landscapes of Norwich and Norfolk in the 19th century.

John Sell Cotman
Bishopsgate Bridge, c.1800
Pencil and watercolour on paper, 22 x 33.4 cm
NWHCM : 1951.235.124 Bequeathed by Russell James Colman
Image supplied by Norwich Castle.John Sell Cotman Bishopsgate Bridge, c.1800 Pencil and watercolour on paper, 22 x 33.4 cm NWHCM : 1951.235.124 Bequeathed by Russell James Colman Image supplied by Norwich Castle.

Now James Colman, organiser of open air art competition Paint Out Norwich, is hoping these master painters will inspire modern day artists competing in the event this month.

In highlighting the Norwich School, James is carrying on what is perhaps a family tradition of putting a spotlight on the art movement, for many of the Norwich School works on show at Norwich Castle were bequeathed by the Colman family.

James is hoping Paint Out Norwich artists will use these galleries as a starting point before picking up their paintbrushes.

“I think the Norwich School collection is an important collection nationally and I think it’s wonderful that artists [participating in Paint Out Norwich] are able to see the city through the eyes of the Norwich School...They represent a gold standard in landscape painting from a particular era,” said James, an artist himself.

The Norwich School artists and the Colman family

The Norwich School’s two great masters were John Crome and John Sell Cotman, and other artists included James Stark, John Berney Crome, George Vincent, Robert Ladbrooke, James Sillett, John Thirtle, John Joseph Cotman, Joseph Stannard, Alfred Stannard, Emily Stannard, Edward Thomas Daniell, Henry Bright, David Hodgson and Robert Dixon.

Norwich Castle owns the foremost Norwich School collection and a huge amount of these works were bequeathed by the Colman family.

When Jeremiah James Colman (1830-1898), founder of the Colman’s mustard manfacturing empire, started collecting Norwich School paintings he was advised by the first curator of the Norwich museum, James Reeve, and bequeathed 20 Norwich School paintings to Norwich Castle Museum.

Jeremiah’s son Russell James Colman (1861-1946) continued to collect Norwich School works and in 1946 bequeathed 234 oil paintings and 2,823 works on paper. He also provided funds to build Norwich Castle’s Colman Art Galleries.

Today, the castle’s Norwich School works on paper are exhibited on a rotating basis for conservation reasons, while about 150 oil paintings are on permanent display.

He is keen to highlight John Sell Cotman’s watercolour of Bishopsgate Bridge, c.1800, which is currently not on display at the castle but provides a striking view of the River Wensum.

The Paint Out Norwich artists hub will be close to the water at Anteros Arts Foundation and North this year, and the river will be a key focus for the competition.

“The river is right there and you don’t have to go very far from your hub to paint a beautiful picture,” he said, adding artists are also being given the chance to paint from canoes, provided by Pub and Paddle.

“By putting artists into canoes they will be down at water level and looking up generally, so hopefully you will get views of the cathedral that you wouldn’t other otherwise get, slightly unconventional views...and also reflections have very exciting potential,” he said.

Up to 40 artists will take part in the main competition next Monday and Tuesday. There will be five categories - oils, watercolour, mixed media, freestyle and nocturne - and work created will be displayed at Norwich Cathedral’s Hostry. A gala preview, prize-giving and auction will take place on Wednesday and the exhibition will run until October 29.

This weekend the public can also get involved in Paint Out Norwich, with workshops at Anteros Arts Foundation on Saturday and a public Paint Out event in Tombland on Sunday.

Paint Out Norwich is part of the Hostry Festival. Visit www.paintoutnorwich.org and www.hostryfestival.org

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