John Raphael Smith (1752–1812) holds a distinguished position in the history of reproductive engraving; his catalogue of more than four hundred mezzotints includes outstanding prints after leading portraitists of the day, including Sir Joshua Reynolds (1723–92) and George Romney (1734–1802), as well as numerous genre scenes by George Morland (1763–1804) (see TG0874 figure 1). Girtin’s connection with Smith is attested by a rare portrait drawing which, according to the inscription, depicts ‘Citizen’ Smith ‘Waiting for the Mail Coach’ and was ‘Sketched from the life’ (TG1600). The word ‘Citizen’ suggests that the link between the two men might have been established through shared radical sympathies, and there is no evidence to substantiate an early story recording that Smith employed the young Girtin, together with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), to colour prints for him (Thornbury, 1862, vol.1, p.53). In fact, it seems that Girtin’s early biographers conflated the work he executed in partnership with Turner at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and the prints of regimental uniforms he coloured for his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804) (such as TG0061b). The more probable basis for their professional relationship is established by Smith’s posthumous sale in 1814, which included nine lots totalling thirty-five items by Girtin. These were mostly sketches, but also some ‘large landscapes’, a ‘view of Weymouth’ and a panoramic scene whose inscription states that it ‘was made for Raphael Smith’ (TG1742) (Exhibitions: Dodd and Holland, 28 May 1814). Whether Smith was merely an enthusiastic collector of Girtin’s work or acquired the drawings with the intention of reproducing them is not known.
1796 - 1797
Dogs Hesitating about the Pluck
1798 - 1799
John Raphael Smith: ‘Waiting for the Mail Coach’
First Regiment of Foot Guards, 1660: Drummer and Private
1800 - 1801
A Panoramic Landscape, with Figures Trawling a Pond