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Works Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames

1795 - 1796

Print after: John Walker (active 1776–1802), 'from an Original Drawing by T. Girtin', engraving, 'Marlow-Bridge, Buckinghamshire' for The Copper-Plate Magazine, vol.3, no.70, pl.140, 1 November 1797, 15 × 20 cm, 5 ⅞ × 7 ⅞ in. Reprinted in Thomas Miller, Turner and Girtin's Picturesque Views, p.99, 1854. British Museum, London (1862,0712.790).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
10.1 × 15.8 cm, 4 × 6 ¼ in
Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print
Subject Terms
Buckinghamshire View; River Scenery; The River Thames

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames (TG0344)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Christie's, 19 October 1971, lot 158; bought by 'Pound', 120 gns; Christie's, 15 February 1972, lot 74; bought by 'Starkey', 160 gns

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin depicting the village of Marlow looking west from the river Thames, with the spire of All Saints’ Church prominent in the distance, was engraved by John Walker (active 1776–1802) for publication in his Copper-Plate Magazine in November 1797 (see the print after, above) (Walker, 1792–1802). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak thought that a more panoramic composition showing the same view was used as the basis for the print (TG0344), but that work was probably produced later and it displays, in any case, a number of significant differences from the print. The fact that this drawing is exactly the same size and follows the same proportions suggests that it was the source for Walker’s engraving though the lack of an image of the work makes this difficult to confirm.

Joseph Constantine Stadler (c.1755–1828), after Joseph Farington (1747–1821), etching and aquatint, hand-coloured, 'Great Marlow' for <i>A History of the River Thames</i>, vol.1, pl.35, 1793, 19 × 30.1 cm, 7 ½ × 11 ⅞ in. British Museum, London (1948,0410.51).

Despite the fact that the print is inscribed ‘from an Original Drawing by T. Girtin’, the status of Girtin’s watercolour as a firsthand record is open to some doubt. Girtin’s earliest view of the town, Marlow, from across the River Thames (TG0054), from late 1791 (a work owned by Walker), was almost certainly made after a sketch by the apprentice artist’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). A later view of All Saints’ Church (TG0237) was also executed after a composition by Dayes, and the notion that Girtin did not actually visit Marlow and that this watercolour was therefore made from another artist’s sketch is reinforced by a consideration of the inaccurate form of the bridge. The text accompanying the print describes the new wooden bridge, constructed in 1789, ‘as equal to that of any structure of the kind’, adding that the ‘balustrades are painted to imitate stone’ (Walker, 1792–1802, vol.3). The depiction of the balustrades is fine, but they surmount a conventional multi-arched bridge that in no way resembles the closely spaced wooden posts with prominent cross-struts that Girtin correctly shows in his earlier view (TG0054). Although Girtin’s model has not been traced, it seems that he based his work on a distant view of the town, something like the scene produced by Joseph Farington (1747–1821) for A History of the River Thames (Combe, 1794–96) (see figure 1), and that he misread this and other details. If the work was produced several years after the artist left Dayes’ studio, then it is likely that he worked from his own copy of his master’s original sketch. If it was like the pencil drawing he inscribed ‘Marlow’ (TG0313), it no doubt included insufficient detail to ensure an accurate representation of the bridge. The dilapidated fence shown on the island in the middle of the river may be another misinterpretation of the original sketch. In Farington’s view the same area of the river is occupied by a small bridge across the water, which makes more sense than the fence going nowhere seen here. Girtin still produced topographical views for the print trade after the compositions of other artists even after he began the regular touring that took him across the country, but such tasks increasingly failed to grip the imagination and the results, as here, were often unsatisfactory.

1795 - 1796

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames


(?) 1791

Marlow, from across the River Thames


1792 - 1793

All Saints’ Church, Marlow


(?) 1791

Marlow, from across the River Thames


1799 - 1800

A Wooded Landscape with a Church Spire, Said to Be Marlow


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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