Completed British 19th C, except portraits, South East England: Artists and Subjects 14 Can you confirm the location of this landscape by Christopher Nerry Potten?

Topic: Subject or sitter

Is this a picture depicting the Sussex Downs above the cliffs, west of Belle Tout, the Seven Sisters, or east of Beechy Head?

In 1878, Potten exhibited 'The Downs near Eastbourne' as no. 939 at the Royal Academy.

Martin Hopkinson, Entry reviewed by Art UK

Completed, Outcome

This discussion is now closed. The painting’s title has been changed to 'Downland Landscape with a View to the Sea' with additional title information '(possibly 'The Downs near Eastbourne' exhibited in 1878)’.

Thank you to everyone for participating in this discussion. To those viewing this discussion for the first time, please see below for all the comments that led to this conclusion.


Kieran Owens,

The Hastings and St. Leonard's Observer, of Saturday 07 September 1878, also mentions the picture "The Downes near Eastbourne", by Christopher Potten (sic), was exhibited at the fifth annual exhibition at the Royal Pavilion, Brighton.

Searchers for references to other works by this artist might note that in certain publications he is described as Christopher Potten, Nerry C. Potten, N. C. Potten, and C. Potten. It might also be noted that many of his works were watercolours.

The attached clipping, from the Hampshire Telegraph of Saturday 29th September 1888, gives some interesting details of his life.

Also, extensive details of his life and works can be found here:

Kieran Owens,

Would it be possible to post a photograph of the back of this painting?

Kieran Owens,

Additional information on Christopher Nerry/Nerry Christopher Potten has been very kindly supplied by Neil Rogers-Davis, from whose website above mentioned much other information on the artists may be found. He writes: "The Potten family settled in the village of Patching in West Sussex....and Nerry stemmed from that line. His father, Amos Potten, was born in Patching but work as a smith took him to Portsea where Nerry grew up. He was christened Christopher Nerry Potten but reversed his Christian names by the time he had set up his studio in Shepherds Bush."

"Nerry exhibited in exhibitions as far north as Dundee but also in the north of England where I think he had some interest in landscapes, etc. A known painting was of Bolton Abbey. He also exhibited up in Northumberland (Bedlington). However, rather than the north, the landscape (of the discussion) looks more like the rounded rolling South Downs with the sea in the background. It also looks like gorse growing there which is typical of the South Downs and the sheep have a resemblance to Southdowns but it may need an expert to properly identify them. The Downs appear a little on the high side but there are a number of steep escarpments along their way."

"Nerry married a musician and passable painter (Clara Haynes) from Eastbourne and undoubtedly spent time in that area. I do not think their marriage lasted that long and they went their separate ways – she moved back to Eastbourne."

Kieran Owens,

Neil has also suggested the following" "Nerry’s recorded 1878/9 painting "A Peep at the Winding River"....could well be the classic meandering River Cuckmere to the west of Eastbourne, perhaps a clue that he spend much time painting in that area".

Maybe the scene of this discussion's painting is in the same vicinity.

Thanks, Museums Sheffield.

The artist's address inscribed on the reverse of the canvas is right for his single RA exhibit -- 'The Downs near Eastbourne' -- shown in 1878 (939) and also for his three exhibits at the Society of British Artists, in 1878/9, 1879 and 1880, the first of which was 'A Peep at the Winding River' (302, priced at £25), the other two not being directly relevant to the present discussion.

The canvas stamp is of Brodie & Middleton, 79 Long Acre, London, premises occupied by this firm of artist suppliers from 1841 to 1981.

The fact that the canvas is inscribed prominently with the artist's name and address on the reverse suggests that it was submitted for an open exhibition. In other words, it increases the probability that this picture was indeed no. 939 in the RA exhibition of 1878.

One of the issues with this picture and the exact determination of the place is the degree of topographical accuracy with which the artist has painted the view before him. I don't think the location is the Seven Sisters. The best guess maybe Beachy Head or Hope Gap but the higher areas of ground to the upper right of the painting do not fit my recollection of this exact view. In the absence of harder evidence linking this painting to the RA picture of 1878 I think it may be a step too far to confirm the title as 'The Downs near Eastbourne' but there is a probability that Potten based the work on the downland landscape directly west of Eastbourne. I think the title of the work should be improved from simply 'Landscape' to 'Downland Landscape with View to the Sea' (possibly 'The Downs near Eastbourne' exhibited in 1878).

I visited the Downs immediately west of Eastbourne recently and it is indeed difficult to place the exact view depicted in the Potten painting. The work probably is the one 'The Downs above Eastbourne' exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1878 but In the absence of harder evidence I think it may be a step too far to confirm the title of the painting as 'The Downs near Eastbourne'.

I recommend that the title of the work should be improved from simply 'Landscape' to 'Downland Landscape with a View to the Sea' (possibly 'The Downs near Eastbourne' exhibited in 1878).