Cotman was born in St. Mary Coslany, Norwich, son of Edmund Cotman and Ann Sell. He moved to London in 1798 and joined Dr Munro's Academy the following year and became a member of the sketching society which had developed around the talent and personality of an earlier student, Thomas Girtin. Between 1800 and 1805 he embarked on numerous sketching tours to Wales and Yorkshire. Disappointed on his return to London, not to be elected member of the recently founded Society of Painters in Watercolours, Cotman returned to Norwich, set up a successful practice and drawing school, and in 1811 became President of the Norwich Society of Artists. These pictures are late works of the 1830s. The subject of the Angler was etched by Cotman's eldest son, Miles Edmund Cotman (1810-58), with the title Figure crossing a footbridge, there are slight variations to the figure which does not show the fishing rod.