Sir George Howland Beaumont, 7th Baronet (1753–1827), was a prominent art patron and amateur artist who is best known today for his role in the foundation of the National Gallery and for his intemperate criticism of the work of Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). Perhaps prompted by his antipathy to Turner’s style, Beaumont commissioned Girtin around 1800 to create a group of less showy watercolours based on his own on-the-spot sketches, which is how the young artist came to produce seven Lake District scenes without visiting the celebrated picturesque region. Drawings such as Borrowdale (TG1582) are certainly improvements on their original source (see the source image), but they hardly represent Girtin at his most radical, and there is a distinct possibility that they were created as lessons for the amateur artist rather than being a commission in the usual sense. Indeed, the significance of Beaumont’s role as a patron of Girtin has generally been overemphasised. Thus, there is no evidence that the artist visited Beaumont’s home in Benarth, North Wales, or that he sketched there in 1800, and Charles Robert Leslie (1794–1859) inflated the number of watercolours by Girtin that Beaumont owned to thirty by including a set of the twenty Paris prints that he subscribed to after the artist’s death. Leslie was, however, right to emphasise the significance of the example of Beaumont’s works by Girtin for his young protégé, John Constable (1776–1837) (see TG1584 figure 1), noting that Beaumont advised Constable to ‘study’ them ‘as examples of great breadth and truth’ (Leslie, 1845, p.6; see also Fleming-Williams, 1990, p.77).

1799 - 1800



1799 - 1800

A Bridge over the River Derwent, Watendlath


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