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Works Thomas Girtin

A Farmhouse, Said to Be near Newcastle upon Tyne

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1084: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Farmhouse, Said to Be near Newcastle upon Tyne, (?) 1800, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 11.9 × 20.7 cm, 4 ⅝ × 8 ⅛ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1183).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Print after: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), soft-ground etching, Unknown Artist, hand-colouring, Cottage and Two Cows Being Milked, ‘Published by J. Harris / June 4 1805’, 15.8 × 25 cm, 6 ¼ × 9 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1978.43.897).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • A Farmhouse, Said to Be near Newcastle upon Tyne
Date
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
11.9 × 20.7 cm, 4 ⅝ × 8 ⅛ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Durham and Northumberland; Picturesque Vernacular

Collection
Versions
A Farmhouse, Said to Be near Newcastle-upon-Tyne (TG1704)
Catalogue Number
TG1084
Girtin & Loshak Number
191i as 'Cottages near Newcastle'; '1797'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001

Provenance

Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Girtin (1836–1912) (lent to London, 1875); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.61 as 'Cottages near Newcastle'; London, 1962a, no.136; Reading, 1969, no.41; Wichita, 1983, fig.11; New Haven, 1986a, no.51 as ’Cottage near Newcastle’

Bibliography

Davies, 1924, pl.36 as 'Cottages at Newcastle'; YCBA Online as 'Cottage near Newcastle, Northumberland' (Accessed 15/09/2022)

About this Work

This fine small watercolour depicts a farmhouse that has variously been described as being near Hereford, Norwich, and, more recently, Newcastle upon Tyne, though on what grounds the latter location has been arrived at is unclear. The composition is known in another variant, with two children at the doorway replacing the cows and the couple shown here (TG1704), and each version, in turn, was very probably the subject of a copy by an unknown artist (see figure 1 and TG1704 figure 1 respectively). Both of the watercolours have been described as showing cottages, whereas the figures and animals suggest that we are looking at a farmhouse, though whether this was originally studied from nature cannot be determined. However, I suspect that even if the buildings themselves were based on a scene from nature, the landscape setting, which more resembles a country park, was improvised, and it is unlikely to have anything to do with a subject viewed on the artist’s only known visit to the Newcastle area in 1796.

A Farmhouse, Said to be Near Newcastle-upon-Tyne

In contrast to the larger variant of the composition, which is dated 1800, this more compact version is in excellent condition (aside from a few retouchings in the sky), allowing one to appreciate the artist’s rapid handling of the watercolour washes. It is unlikely that it was coloured on the spot, however, whatever the scene’s location, as the use of multiple washes and a relatively broad palette are both characteristic of more time-consuming studio productions. Beginning around 1796–97, Girtin produced small sketch-like works that replicated some of the spontaneous effects of the on-the-spot colour study for collectors who appreciated the less formal side of his output, and it was perhaps this, combined with the possible northern subject matter, that suggested to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak a date of 1798 for this work (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.160). I suspect, however, that the drawing may date from a few years later and is thus related to a soft-ground etching that replicates this version of the composition (see the print after, above). Although the print appears to have been coloured by another hand, Girtin and Loshak have plausibly suggested that it was produced by the artist himself to try out the aquatint process that he was to employ in his Picturesque Views in Paris, and it may be that this and the two variants of the composition (TG1084 and TG1704) were all made by Girtin at roughly the same time, in or around 1800. The print certainly matches the sketch in terms of size, and, as overlaying images of the two demonstrates, it was closely based on this watercolour. John Girtin (1773–1821), the artist’s brother, claimed that he ‘taught’ his younger sibling ‘the art of Etching’ (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804), and so could it be that this version of Girtin’s picturesque composition formed part of that process?1

Another larger version of the composition, also featuring cows being milked in the foreground, appeared at auction in New York in 1985 with the title ‘A Yorkshire Farmstead’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, New York, 30 October 1985, lot 433). Although the work is known only from a small black and white photograph, there is arguably enough evidence to suggest that it is a poor-quality copy, and the date and signature may therefore be inauthentic, though confirmation of this must await its reappearance or the procurement of a better image.

Image Overlay

1800

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

TG1704

(?) 1800

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

TG1084

1800

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

TG1704

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 The financial records of John Girtin covering the income he received from the sale of the contents of his brother's studio, as well as from the Eidometropolis and the twenty aquatints of the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with a detailed account of the expenses from both projects, are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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