Edward William Cooke RA, Cartagena from Santa Lucia

Cartagena from Santa Lucia, Probably December 1860

Edward William Cooke RA (1811 - 1880)

RA Collection: Art

E. W. Cooke left England in September 1860, travelling through France with another artist, Robert Bateman. On reaching Marseilles they boarded a steamer to Barcelona and then took another boat which sailed to Tortosa via Monserrat and Tarragona. Cooke and his companion then travelled overland to Valencia and Madrid also visiting Alicante, Murcia and Cartagena. By January 30th they had reached Granada where Cooke stayed for over two weeks before taking an excursion to Gibraltar and Tangiers.

Cooke sketched avidly, taking particular interest in the various vessels he saw as well as recording the architecture, landscape and skies (including what he described as 'the most wonderful sunset I ever saw', at Cartagena). In Granada, he toured the Alhambra, drawing the impressive complex of gardens, palaces and defensive buildings. However, compared with earlier tours of Holland and Italy, Cooke's Spanish and North African sketches failed to make as great an impact on his finished oil paintings. It is possible that Cooke simply found the subjects less suited to his work but John Munday suggests his lack of interest stemmed from the artist's negative memories of the trip. Whilst in Tangiers Cooke received news of his youngest sister's death and also received a letter from Christina Mark breaking off their nascent relationship. Cooke's Leaves from my Sketchbook(1876 and 1877) featured reproductions of Italian, Dutch, French, German and Egyptian scenes but no examples of his Spanish sketches were included.

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This group of 100 drawings consists of travel sketches by E.W. Cooke. They come from a stock of over 20,000 that the artist produced over the course of his career. Following the early death of his wife in 1844, Cooke developed a peripatetic lifestyle, travelling extensively in Britain and Ireland as well as making regular visits to Holland, France, Italy, Germany and Switzerland. He also toured Spain, Egypt and Sweden. Whilst travelling, Cooke filled scores of sketchbooks with his meticulous pencil drawings of seascapes, landscapes, architecture and local scenes. Given the highly detailed nature of his drawings it is perhaps unsurpising that Cooke also made use of a camera lucida and photography in his work.

Cooke's travel sketches were generally made with subsequent engravings or oil paintings in mind and his habit was to take his sketchbooks apart on his return and file them in order. The drawings were later mounted by the artist's sisters, with whom he shared a house. There was a studio sale of Cooke's work shortly after his death in 1880 but this group of drawings was retained by his family and presented to the Royal Academy at a later date.

Many of the drawings were engraved and published in the two editions of Cooke's Leaves from my Sketchbook (1876 and 1877). In the introduction to these publications Cooke wrote, 'Travels in many countries, extending over a period of fifty years, have filled my Sketch-books with several thousand sketches, which have often served to recall to friends pleasant memories of happy days and sunny climes, and excite a wish to visit places alike remarkable for natural beauty and historic interest.'

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Object details

Cartagena from Santa Lucia
Probably December 1860
Object type
Pencil on wove paper

149 mm x 265 mm

Royal Academy of Arts
Object number
Given by Miss Laura Cooke 1881 and 17th December 1882
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