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Works Thomas Girtin

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert

(?) 1798

Primary Image: TG1321: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Mountain View, near Beddgelert, (?) 1798, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 29 × 43.2 cm, 11 ⅜ × 17 in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.52).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Mountain View, near Beddgelert
(?) 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
29 × 43.2 cm, 11 ⅜ × 17 in
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; North Wales

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert (TG1322)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
266i as 'Near Beddgelert'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855

Exhibition History

Welsh Arts Council, 1964, no.197; Manchester, 1975, no.40; London, 1985, no.76; London, 1993, no.140; London, 2002, no.115 as ’View near Beddgelert, North Wales’


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.39; Davies, 1924, pl.64; Hardie, 1934, p.17; Hardie, 1938–39, p.92; Mayne, 1949, pp.47–48, pp.54–55, p.93; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.68–69; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.5, p.19; Herrmann, 2000, pp.39–40; Venning, 2003, pp.50–51; Westheider and Philipp, 2011, pp.149–50; Bishop, 2018–19, pp.92–93

About this Work

This fine on-the-spot colour sketch showing a mountain view east of the village of Beddgelert was made on Girtin’s tour of North Wales in the summer of 1798, and it formed the basis for the important watercolour that he showed to great acclaim at the Royal Academy in 1799 (TG1322). The first owner of the studio watercolour was Edward Lascelles (1764–1814), who may have commissioned it from the artist prior to his trip, and that would indeed explain why Girtin worked his sketch on such a large scale. Conversely, the artist may have been encouraged to make a colour sketch, rather than a simple pencil outline, as a result of encountering a promising view that was accompanied by an appropriate weather effect. If the latter was the case, the resulting sketch, which captures the way a broken sky has partially illuminated the scene, picking out Dinas Emrys in the centre, would then have both helped in the production of a finished watercolour and also provided a useful guide to a prospective client, who would get a better idea of what their purchase might look like. Whatever the case, the subject of Girtin’s view was certainly not as obscure as Lascelles’ other major acquisition from the tour, the view of the Ogwen Falls (TG1330), which was based on a simpler pencil drawing (TG1329). In contrast, the situation of Beddgelert, ‘in the midst of the Welsh Alps’, made the village a popular centre for tourists and artists visiting Snowdonia (Michell, 1845, p.26). Girtin would have only had to walk about a kilometre east of the village along the valley of the Glaslyn to make his sketch, though Mount Snowdon itself is lost in the clouds to the left. At this point, according to one traveller, the ‘rude and dark sides’ of the mountains form ‘a fine contrast with the meadows of the vale below’, and any signs of occupation are dwarfed by the setting (Bingley, 1800, vol.1, p.359).

The status of the sketch as an on-the-spot study is confirmed by a number of features, including its restricted palette and the rapid handling of the washes, which in some areas, especially in the foreground, are little more than a simple flat tone, and in others lack the precision and control associated with studio works. The light spots in the foreground have been interpreted as being caused by raindrops, a perennial danger when sketching out of doors in Wales, but surely this would have affected all of the drawing, and they are probably the result of a mishap involving the artist’s water supply. The sky appears to have been added last, since there is some bleeding of the blue–grey washes into the mountains.

Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) travelled to North Wales in the same year and he sketched much the same view of the Glaslyn valley (see figure 1). According to Joseph Farington (1747–1821), writing in 1798, Turner travelled to ‘South & North Wales this Summer’, and he told the diarist that he was ‘alone and on Horseback – out 7 weeks’. Given that the artist was not reported to be back in London until late September, it is clear that although he sketched many of the same subjects as Girtin, they did so independently, with Turner’s visit to Beddgelert taking place a month or so later. The weather, Turner stated, included ‘much rain’, but this was ‘better for effects’, as Girtin’s sketch attests (Farington, Diary, 26 September 1798). Perhaps with Girtin’s subsequent 1799 exhibition watercolour in mind, Turner produced a larger on-the-spot colour sketch from much the same viewpoint on his return to North Wales the next summer (see figure 2). And Girtin himself produced a smaller colour study showing the same view of Dinas Emrys from closer to (TG1324). This is in Girtin’s Book of Drawings with the identification ‘Bedgellert’ written on the opposite page, but whether it was also sketched on the spot is difficult to ascertain, though I now suspect that it is a later studio work.

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a buff-grey laid wrapping paper, made by an unknown English manufacturer (Smith, 2002b, p.152; Bower, Report). The same low-grade wrapping paper, made from a mix of white linen, hemp rope and some blue fibres, was employed for another on-the-spot sketch, showing the nearby view of Mynydd Mawr (TG1327).

1798 - 1799

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


1798 - 1799

The Ogwen Falls


(?) 1798

The Ogwen Falls


1800 - 1801

The Valley of the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert


(?) 1798

Pont Seiont, Looking towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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