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Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) - A Country House c.1798-9
  • Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) - A Country House c.1798-9

    This important work by Thomas Girtin has an interesting provenance trail including being in Andrew Wyld's collection. It has been dated to c.1798-9 and can be compared to two similar works in the Yale Center for British Art (accession numbers: B1977.14.5668 and B1986.29.528). The former work depicts a remarkably similar house which is also unidentified. It is perhaps a view of our building from the other side. The later watercolour depicts Chalfont Lodge in Buckinghamshire and although this is a different house to our work, the composition is similar particularly with the sky. 


    Importantly, this watercolour has been included in the recent online publication of Thomas Girtin's catalogue raisonné by Greg Smith as catalogue number TG1558. Smith wrote the following about the watercolour:


    'This view of an unidentified small country house or lodge has much in common with another work of about the same date (TG1560). Roughly the same size, it too shows a modestly scaled modern house designed in the fashionable picturesque vernacular style of John Nash (1752–1835) (see TG1560). Shared details link the two – such as the tiled roofs, the prominent bow fronts with their extensive windows designed to look out over the view, and the pronounced asymmetry of the designs – and I suspect that this work too was executed by Girtin from a set of elevations from an architect’s office. Certainly, there are no signs that the work was derived from a sketch made on the spot, and the landscape element has the same conventional feeling, meaning that it lacks a sense of unity with the building. The reason the subject of the work has not been identified, therefore, may be because it never existed other than on paper, and I suspect that the drawing was commissioned from Girtin by an architect to give a prospective client an idea of how a new estate building might enhance the picturesque appeal of their property. That Girtin was still prepared to take on the essentially hack work of the architectural perspectivist well into his career, perhaps even as late as 1799–1800, is perhaps not so surprising as it may initially seem, given the fact that the skills of a topographical artist are easily transferrable to such a task. More telling, perhaps, is the fact that Girtin employed the full range of naturalistic effects of weather and light to disguise his role, which was essentially to create the illusion that a project had in fact stood for generations as an integral part of a landscape.' [1]


    Medium: watercolour and pencil on paper, 23 x 34.2 cm, framed.


    Provenance: C. Thomas Toppin, Sotheby's, 10 March 1988, lot 6; W.S. Fine Art, London (Andrew Wyld); Christie's, 'Andrew Wyld: Connoisseur Dealer', 10 July 2012, lot 65, £3,250; Timothy Clowes; Private collection, U.K.


    Literature on watercolour:


    [1] Greg Smith, "An Unidentified Small Country House", Thomas Girtin (1775–1802): An Online Catalogue, Archive and Introduction to the Artist, (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2022),


    S. Morris, 'Thomas Girtin's 'Unidentified Country House', Art Bulletin of Tasmania, 1985, pp. 40-45


    Condition report: generally very good. There are a few scatches on the side of the watercolour which are only visible under close inspection as shown in the photographs. The frame has a few scratches and a partial paint loss in areas.

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