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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0344: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 11.5 × 21 cm, 4 ½ × 8 ¼ in. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (59.55.597).

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
11.5 × 21 cm, 4 ½ × 8 ¼ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Buckinghamshire View; River Scenery; The River Thames

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames (TG0344a)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
178 as 'Great Marlow Church'; '1796-7'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


W. H. Behrens; his sale, Christie's, 22 January 1926, lot 19; bought by 'Palser', £36 15s; J. Palser & Sons; sold 1 June 1926; ... Squire Gallery, London, 1947; bought from them by Gilbert Davis (1899-1983); bought from him by the Gallery, 1959

Exhibition History

Arts Council, 1955, no.36

About this Work

This view of the village of Marlow looking west from the river Thames, with the spire of All Saints’ Church showing prominently, was catalogued by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak as the model for an engraving by John Walker (active 1766–1802) for his publication The Copper-Plate Magazine (see print after TG0344a) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.158). However, although the views tally in general, numerous details do not match, including the form of the spire and, more significantly, the proportions of the composition, which are more panoramic than another watercolour (crucially, the same size as the print) that emerged on the art market after the publication of Girtin and Loshak’s catalogue (TG0344a). Although it is now clear that this watercolour was not the model for the 1797 engraving, its precise function has not become clearer. The more extended view depicts the details of the bridge and the form of the church spire more accurately than the engraved scene, which seems to have been made after another artist, perhaps Girtin’s master Edward Dayes (1763–1804), but it is hard to see how it could have been made from a new sketch made on the spot when it repeats the same composition so closely. The watercolour is not in good condition; as the strips to the top and to the right illustrate, it has faded badly over the years, and this has also contributed to doubts about the attribution of the work to Girtin himself. Susan Morris, in a note in the file on the work at Huntington, has even suggested that it may be a copy of the print by Walker possibly painted by François Louis Thomas Francia (1772–1839). Although the condition of the work does not help, the poor quality of the colouring in particular does indeed suggest that the watercolour may have been copied by an anonymous artist from the print and that some of its details were corrected in the process.

Another possibility is opened up by the existence of a hand-coloured soft-ground etching that was published after Girtin’s death by Jack Harris (unknown dates) on 4 January 1805 (see the print after, above). This, together with another soft-ground etching of the same size, Cottages near Newcastle (see print after TG1084), form a pair, though the colouring was of course added by a later hand. Girtin and Loshak argued that impressions of both prints were taken from plates etched by Girtin himself and that they were an experiment or test exercise in the reproductive process that he was to employ to such fine effect in his Paris prints in 1802 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.25). However, both prints are poor things in comparison, and, though it is possible that they were produced by Girtin from his own watercolours, equally it could simply have been a case of a publisher commissioning a reproduction of drawings in his possession. My initial thought, namely that the watercolour at Huntington (TG0344) is actually a hand-coloured etching too, with either Girtin or another artist adding sufficient colour to efface the etched line, can be discounted by overlaying images of the two works. Some of the forms do indeed match up, but the composition has been compressed so that the etching conforms to more standard and less panoramic proportions.

Image Overlay

1795 - 1796

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames


1795 - 1796

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames


(?) 1800

A Farmhouse, Said to Be near Newcastle-upon-Tyne


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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