George Morland (1763–1804) was a prominent and successful genre painter whose works formed the basis of numerous prints, though his artistic reputation was overshadowed by a notorious lifestyle that resulted in an early death that appeared to conservative critics as a cautionary warning against a life of excess. There is no doubt that Girtin knew of Morland and his work, presumably through their mutual associate John Raphael Smith (1752–1812), and Morland’s influence can be clearly felt in the figure groups introduced into works such as Dunstanburgh Castle: The Lilburn Tower (TG1101) and Helmsley Castle (TG0122). Indeed, Girtin is recorded as having been asked to produce a companion to Morland’s Mail Coach in a Storm, though he declined the opportunity, claiming that he was not equal to the task (Dawe, 1807, p.200). However, he was prepared to make a copy of another Morland work, Dogs Hesitating about the Pluck (TG0874), and there is evidence that the artists may even have collaborated. An etching titled The Earth Stopper (see print after TG0875) is inscribed ‘The figures by Morland, Landscape by Girtin’, whilst early sales included ‘Sheep in a Landscape. A fine specimen of these two great Masters united’ (Exhibitions: Henry Jeffrey, 1 May 1809, lot 139) and ‘Morning and Evening’, two works said to be ‘Most spirited unrecorded Etchings by Morland, the colouring executed by Girtin, as drawings’ (Exhibitions: Sotheby’s, 13 February 1896, lot 106), though no trace of these items has been found. Morland’s scandalous reputation was perhaps behind Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak’s apparent concern to minimise any connection between the two, and they dismissed an early story about the artists travelling together by collier to the North East (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.25). Additionally, though there are good reasons to think that this was no more than a ‘legend’, it is intriguing to note that John Girtin (1773–1821) claimed that Morland had helped him by ‘looking out for a situation to exhibit the picture of London’, referring to the artist’s panorama, the Eidometropolis (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).
1797 - 1798
Dunstanburgh Castle: The Lilburn Tower
1792 - 1793
1796 - 1797
Dogs Hesitating about the Pluck
1798 - 1799
The Earth Stopper