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Works Thomas Girtin

A Bridge over the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert

(?) 1798

Primary Image: TG1325: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Bridge over the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert, (?) 1798, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (part watermark: crown), 16.7 × 22.1 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.18).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Bridge over the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert
(?) 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (part watermark: crown)
16.7 × 22.1 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; North Wales; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2018


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

Exhibition History

Bremen, 1977, no.219; London, 1985, no.75; London, 2002, no.117; Beijing, 2007, no.1.37


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.11; Binyon, 1900, pl.8; Bishop, 2018–19, pp.93–94

About this Work

A Tour in Wales

This small colour sketch shows the wooden bridge over the river Glaslyn, near Beddgelert, with the low grey clouds helping to create a misty effect characteristic of Welsh mountain views (Bishop, 2018–19, pp.93–94). The same bridge can be seen in an engraving that was used to illustrate Thomas Pennant’s (1726–98) A Tour in Wales (see figure 1) (Pennant, 1784), and, though the view looks in the opposite direction, it nonetheless helps to establish the fact that Girtin’s sketch shows a scene close to the village of Beddgelert and not further along the Glaslyn valley, as I suggested in the 2002 bicentenary exhibition catalogue (Smith, 2002b, p.154). The hill in the centre of the image is therefore not a close-up view of Dinas Emrys, the eminence that is the focus of the on-the-spot colour sketch A Mountain View, near Beddgelert (TG1321), which Girtin executed on his 1798 tour. Whether this sketch was also made on the spot on the same trip is not so clear-cut, however. The comparatively complex build-up of washes on the hill and the bridge indicates a degree of deliberation in its production, and it has been suggested that ‘the detailing of the foreground boulders and the sharper accents on the central pillar of the bridge’ were ‘added later’ in the studio (British Museum, Collection, 1855,0214.18). Whilst it is perfectly possible that Girtin worked up an on-the-spot sketch to make it more saleable, on balance I suspect that this work’s smaller size, in comparison with the other studies from the 1798 tour, means that he was able to create a more finished record of a damp, misty effect, which would have remained unchanged as he made his drawing. Features such as the limited range of tones, the prominence of the pencil lines and the flat unworked areas of wash to the left all suggest that the view was studied from nature, even if it is not possible to prove either way whether it subsequently underwent modification.

Girtin sent two watercolours to the 1799 exhibition of the Royal Academy with the title ‘Bethkellert, North Wales’, but only one them has been identified – the monumental view commissioned by Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) (TG1322) (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1799, nos.347 and 381). Although the second view has not been traced, it is possible that it was based on this drawing, which is the only other sketch made close enough to Beddgelert to have passed under such a title at the Academy. That said, the catalogues of the Academy’s exhibitions are notoriously riddled with errors and I suspect that the second work was the other impressive Lascelles commission, The Ogwen Falls (TG1330), appearing under an incorrect title.

The Glaslyn, near Beddgelert

Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) travelled to North Wales in the same year, and he sketched a similar view of the Glaslyn valley, including the same rustic bridge (see figure 2). According to Joseph Farington (1747–1821), Turner travelled to ‘South & North Wales this Summer’, and he told the diarist that he was ‘alone and on Horseback – out 7 weeks’. Given that the artist was not reported to be back in London until late September, it is clear that although Turner sketched many of the same subjects as Girtin, they did so independently, with his visit to Beddgelert taking place a month or so later. The weather, Turner noted, included ‘much rain’, but this was ‘better for effects’, as Girtin’s sketch attests (Farington, Diary, 26 September 1798).

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a white laid writing paper, made by an unknown English manufacturer, and that it was worked on the artist’s favoured wireside, where the surface is impressed with the lines of the mould used in its manufacture (Smith, 2002b, p.154; Bower, Report).

(?) 1798

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


1798 - 1799

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


1798 - 1799

The Ogwen Falls


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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