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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

A Castle Beside a River

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1782: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Castle Beside a River, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 12.9 × 15.7 cm, 5 ⅛ × 6 ⅛ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Castle Beside a River
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
12.9 × 15.7 cm, 5 ⅛ × 6 ⅛ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in March 2022


Martyn Gregory; his sale, Christie's, 10–24 March 2022, lot 145ii, £4,032 (with TG1780)

About this Work

This is one of two small colour sketches of river scenery on paper of similar dimensions that appear to date from towards the end of Girtin’s life (the other being TG1780). Although the works might be linked together as a pair on stylistic and thematic grounds, the likelihood is that they simply came from the same source, possibly one of the ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’ that John Girtin (1773–1821) discovered in his brother’s studio after his death (Chancery – Income and Expenses, 1804).1 It seems that John, who must at one point have owned several hundred of the artist’s sketches, including many that he appropriated to recoup the substantial sums of money he had lent his brother, was responsible for splitting up the ‘little Books’ for sale (Smith, 2017–18, pp.35–36). It is, however, unlikely that drawings such as this were sketched from nature and what has all the appearance of an imaginary scene was produced instead to meet the demand from collectors for examples of the more informal side of the artist’s output rather than being a topographical record of one of the nation’s castle ruins. It is clear, therefore, that the apparent dispatch with which they were produced was not a result of Girtin seeking to record a transient natural effect; rather it was about creating attractive small-scale commodities from which a sympathetic collector, probably an amateur artist themselves, might benefit by example. That the speed with which the work was created is illusory is suggested by the extensive use of multiple layers of wash, each of which would have had to dry before the artist could proceed, as well as by the even level of completion across the sheet, with no areas left unfinished as typically occurs when working in the field. Any lingering doubts about the attribution of the work to Girtin are allayed by the characteristic palette employed in its production and by an attractive element of pattern making that is a common byproduct of the artist’s studio sketches.

1800 - 1801

A Horse Drinking from a River


by Greg Smith


  1. 1 The financial records of John Girtin, covering the income he received from the Eidometropolis and the twenty aquatints of the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with a detailed account of the expenses from both projects as well as various loans he made to Thomas Girtin, are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 2).

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