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Works Thomas Girtin

A Half-Timbered House with Pigs

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0215: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), A Half-Timbered House with Pigs, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 24 × 44.5 cm, 9 ½ × 17 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Half-Timbered House with Pigs
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
24 × 44.5 cm, 9 ½ × 17 ½ in
Object Type
Copy from an Unknown Source; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sotheby’s, 16 July 1987, lot 81, unsold

About this Work

From the mid-1790s, Girtin added views of picturesque cottages and farms to his stock of antiquarian subjects, culminating in the exhibition of a ‘Cottage, from nature’ at the Royal Academy in 1798 (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1798, no.575). It is not known whether this dilapidated half-timbered building, dating from a little earlier, was based on a sketch made on the spot, rather than being a picturesque composition, but the evidence tends to point towards the former. The building has a number of features in common with the half-timbered structure depicted in a group of watercolours that were probably based on views taken by Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), on his tours of Sussex in 1793 and 1795 (such as TG0248). This work does not seem to have come from Moore’s collection, but Girtin’s patron was certainly interested enough in the vernacular architecture of the area to sketch a number of similar picturesque structures, and it is possible that Girtin used one of these as the basis for this watercolour too, as it is now thought that he did not visit Sussex himself. Certainly, the building shown here seems too idiosyncratic to have been composed as an essay in the picturesque in the studio, and if it does not show a Sussex scene it is equally possible that Girtin sketched the humble dwelling elsewhere on his travels.

The depiction of humble buildings ‘from nature’ was not something that Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), was particularly concerned with, even though his influence still manifests itself stylistically in this watercolour. Instead, Girtin may have looked to the precedent of Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), whose work he would have encountered at the house of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) at about this time. Hearne’s example in watercolours such as A Cottage, near Witham, Essex (see TG1430 figure 1) showed that there was a market for a different kind of architectural subject, not just the antiquarian views that had hitherto preoccupied Girtin. Thereafter, despite the radical changes that transformed every aspect of his work, humble buildings, based on life, continued to form an integral part of his practice.

1793 - 1794

An Ancient House, Possibly in Sussex


by Greg Smith

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