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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

A Landscape with Figures by Railings

1798 - 1802

Primary Image: TG1532: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Landscape with Figures by Railings, 1798–1802, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 23 × 16.6 cm, 9 × 6 ½ in. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Judge George Henry and Harriet Howell Cabaniss Memorial Fund (2002.129).

Photo courtesy of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Judge George Henry and Harriet Howell Cabaniss Memorial Fund (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Landscape with Figures by Railings
1798 - 1802
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
23 × 16.6 cm, 9 × 6 ½ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
214 as 'Landscape Seen Across a River'; 'c. 1797'
Description Source(s)
Museum Website


Randall Davies (1866–1946); his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 11 February 1947, lot 237b (one of four) as 'Landscape with two figures leaning on a rail'; bought by P & D Colnaghi & Co., £32; Sir Bruce Stirling Ingram (1877–1963); his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 9 December 1964, lot 264; bought by Christopher Powney, £320; Cornish Torbock (1905–93); his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 14 April 1994a, lot 32 as 'Attributed to' Thomas Girtin, £115; Martyn Gregory Ltd, 1995; bought by the Museum, 2002

Exhibition History

Colnaghi's, 1956, no.33; Martyn Gregory, London, 1995, no.48 as ’circle of’ Thomas Girtin


Museum Website as by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This upright landscape was included by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak in their catalogue of Girtin’s watercolours, though at more recent sales it has been demoted to the status of merely ‘Attributed to’ or ‘circle of’ the artist (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.163). The earlier cataloguers of Girtin’s works dated it to around 1797 and titled it ‘Landscape Seen across a River’, thereby neatly highlighting the problem with the watercolour, because it is by no means clear that the area of colour beyond the railings actually represents a body of water with its reflections. The effectiveness of the work may have been compromised by fading, but this area of flat colour, like the fields beyond, creates little or no sense of recession, and the foliage is lacking any sense of depth. The tall, spindly tree in the foreground is particularly unconvincing and seems to have been added later, as the railings show through the trunk and the diagonal branch disappears where it crosses the hedge in the middle ground. Areas in the distance include attractive patterns, suggesting that the artist was at least influenced by Girtin, but this work of an unknown follower has little else to recommend it, and I am left wondering how an earlier generation of Girtin scholars could ever have thought this was an autograph work.

by Greg Smith

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