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Edward William Cooke RA, Fragments of the Temple of the Sun in the Colonna Garden

Fragments of the Temple of the Sun in the Colonna Garden, March 18th 1846

Edward William Cooke RA (1811 - 1880)

RA Collection: Art

A contemporary described Cooke as being 'of lively and genial disposition, restlessly active, a great talker, and full of anecdote'. By his own admission, the artist found inactivity unbearable and following the death of his wife, Jane, in 1843 he spent much of his time travelling, completing tours of Britain, Ireland, Spain, Sweden and Egypt as well as making regular visits to Holland, Germany and Italy.

This drawing of ancient ruins in Rome is typical of the thousands of closely observed sketches Cooke drew on his travels. Returning home, he would take the sketchbooks apart and file his drawings in order of subject for easy reference. Although the majority of his painted works are seascapes and coastal scenes, Cooke's travel sketches also reveal a keen interest in antiquarian and scientific matters. This drawing was engraved and published in Cooke's Leaves from my Sketchbook(London 1876).

Edward Cooke arrived in Rome with his sister Laura on December 23rd 1845. Except for a two week excursion to Tivoli, he remained in the city until May the following year. Rome was an unusual destination for a marine painter, and Cooke wrote to his family stating that he was 'taking it coolly' and adding that he had 'intended to paint one or two pictures for the Academy whilst here but it was impossible - 1st because I have been out of spirits and poorly, 2ndly the multitude of objects of intense interest have so completely seized all my thoughts since I left Genoa and the sea, that I seem for a time to have lost all my impressions of marine subjects and effects'.

Nevertheless, Cooke avidly sketched the city's classical and medieval sites during his stay and these formed the basis for several subsequent oil paintings of Roman scenes. A number of the sketches from his Roman visit were also engraved and published in Leaves from my Sketchbook (1876). The drawings in this group depict a wide variety of sites and some relate to compositions which he later developed as oil paintings, including the Doria Pamphili gardens and the view from the Villa Wolskonsky.

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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

Fragments of the Temple of the Sun in the Colonna Garden
March 18th 1846
Object type
Pencil on wove paper

108 mm x 177 mm

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