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Works Thomas Girtin

A Clump of Trees by the Waterside

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1769: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Clump of Trees by the Waterside, 1800 - 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 9.9 × 15.2 cm, 3 ⅞ × 6 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Lowell Libson Ltd.

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Clump of Trees by the Waterside
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
9.9 × 15.2 cm, 3 ⅞ × 6 in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Trees and Woods; Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2004


Herbert Horne (1864–1917); bought from him by Sir Edward Marsh (1872–1953), May 1904; Dr Henry Alexis Chodak-Gregory (1889–1964); his sale, Sotheby's, 20 July 1949, lot 21; bought by Ruth J. Emilie Lowinsky (1893–1958), £40; Sotheby's, 26 November 1952, lot 80 as 'Trees on the bank of a lake, with a view of a town beyond'; bought by 'Rushton', £24; Sotheby's, 1 July 2004, lot 177 as 'Trees on a Riverbank'; Lowell Libson Ltd, 2004

Exhibition History

Lowell Libson, 2004, no.21 as ’A Clump of Trees by a Lake’

About this Work

The Three Trees

The central motif of this fine study of a clump of trees by the waterside bears some resemblance to the group of trees that frames one side of Girtin’s celebrated image A Rainbow over the River Exe (TG1730), and it was perhaps this that prompted the suggestion that it was sketched on the spot in the West Country (Exhibitions: Lowell Libson, London, 2004, no.21). The drawing, which probably dates from around 1800, is a studio work, however, being altogether too carefully planned and evenly worked, with a wide range of tints, to have been coloured on the spot. In particular, each of the multiple layers of wash that Girtin employed to create the skyscape and the complex reflections in the water would have needed to dry before work could proceed, by which time the light and weather effect shown here would have long since changed. The sense of immediacy and dispatch is an illusion, therefore, created by an artist who was aware that there was a ready market for his less formal creations, and for whom an on-the-spot sketch was an altogether messier effort, produced for himself alone, as with A Farmhouse (TG1439). Only the work’s small scale suggests that it might have been removed from a sketchbook, and its modest size, in any case, might be more readily explained by the sector of the art market that the sketch-like commodity was aimed at: namely, collectors who were themselves amateur artists. I am not even sure that the drawing is not an imaginary scene, created perhaps with a nod to the famous etching by Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–69) The Three Trees (see figure 1), which contains many of the same landscape elements. Certainly, there is little point in trying to establish a location for a view that because it could be anywhere, is probably nowhere, despite purporting to having been sketched on the spot.


A Rainbow over the River Exe


1798 - 1799

A Farmhouse


by Greg Smith

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