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Works Thomas Girtin

A Barn by a Pond

(?) 1802

Primary Image: TG1790: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Barn by a Pond, (?) 1802, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 8.6 × 11.4 cm, 3 ⅜ × 4 ½ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.36).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Barn by a Pond
(?) 1802
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
8.6 × 11.4 cm, 3 ⅜ × 4 ½ in
Part of
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular; Rural Labour

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855


Delamotte, 1871, pp.45–47; Binyon, 1898–1907, no.20b as 'A Shed'; Wilkinson, 1974, p.15

About this Work

This view of a thatched barn next to a pond is one of fifteen generally slight colour sketches, all measuring roughly 8.9 × 11.4 cm (3 ½ × 4 ½ in), that appear to have come from a sketchbook worked late in Girtin’s career. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak thought that these works ‘represent the fruits of local sketching trips taken during the summer of 1802’, and they argued that the fact that none of them were used as the basis for studio watercolours supported a late date (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.84–85). However, only one of the scenes can be identified as a local view, Copenhagen House, Islington (TG1783), and although some of them appear to be imaginary, others, as in this case, resemble the picturesque subjects sketched in Essex three or four years earlier. Thus, whilst the sketches were evidently created at speed, it is unlikely that they were worked up on the spot, being produced instead in the studio to satisfy the market for the less formal aspects of the artist’s output. The evidence that they come from a sketchbook is also ambiguous, since, as the paper historian Peter Bower has pointed out, specialised books for the use of artists were not manufactured at this date, and they either used pocketbooks or they themselves gathered together sheets of paper (Bower, 2002, p.141). New evidence, in the form of the account of John Girtin (1773–1821) of the material that he removed from his brother’s studio at his death, suggests that the latter was the case here. John records that amongst the items that he appropriated to settle his brother’s extensive unpaid debts were ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’, and it seems likely that these included the group of small drawings now in the British Museum, which would, indeed, date from late in his life (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804). John Girtin was thus responsible for splitting up the ‘little Books’ and selling the sketches to collectors such as Chambers Hall (1786–1855), the generous patron of the museum (Smith, 2017–18, pp.35–36).

The picturesque barn and pond seen here appear to be the same combination found in the watercolour titled A Farmyard with Cattle, Poultry and Labourers Unloading Hay (TG1757). This is probably one of the Essex farms bought as an investment by Girtin’s father-in-law, the London goldsmith Phineas Borrett (1756–1843), which the artist depicted in a series of commissions for him around 1798–99 (such as TG1413 and TG1452). Pinkney’s Farm, which is located in the village of Wimbish, near Saffron Walden, also appears to be the subject of another of the small sketches in the collection of the British Museum (TG1788), and others were also probably based on sketches made in the area (TG1795 and TG1796). As with the major watercolour of the barn and pond, these small views of picturesque vernacular buildings were probably produced from older sketches, and there is no suggestion that the artist revisited Essex at this late date.

(?) 1802

Copenhagen House, Islington


1800 - 1801

A Farmyard with Cattle, Poultry and Labourers Unloading Hay, Possibly Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


(?) 1802

A Church in a Village, Possibly at Radwinter


(?) 1802

A Windmill behind a Barn


(?) 1802

Outhouses with a Cart


by Greg Smith

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