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Works Thomas Girtin

A Panoramic Landscape, Possibly Showing Primrose Hill, London

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1761: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Panoramic Landscape, Possibly Showing Primrose Hill, London, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on paper, 19.4 × 49.2 cm, 7 ⅝ × 19 ⅜ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Guy Peppiatt Fine Art Ltd. (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Panoramic Landscape, Possibly Showing Primrose Hill, London
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
19.4 × 49.2 cm, 7 ⅝ × 19 ⅜ in

‘Primrose Hill coloured on the Spot by / Girtin’ on the back

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch; Visible Fold in the Paper
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Panoramic Format

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
416 as 'Primrose Hill'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2014


Arthur Boney; his sale, Sotheby's, 7 October 1947, lot 34; bought by P & D Colnaghi & Co., £62; bought by Ray Livingston Murphy (1923–53), £120; sale of his estate, Christie’s, 19 November 1985, lot 35, unsold; Robert Tear (1939–2011); his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 9 July 2014, lot 189; bought by Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, £12,500

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1950, no.18; Guy Peppiatt, London, 2015, no.17

About this Work

This panoramic landscape has been identified as showing Primrose Hill in north London, on the basis of an inscription on the back of the drawing, and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak consequently dated it to 1800–1801 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.191). The area was then undeveloped, and it did not become a place of leisure and recreation until well into the nineteenth century, since when the rapid expansion of the city northwards has changed the appearance of the landscape so profoundly that it may never be possible to confirm the identification of the scene. But, for what it’s worth, and after many years living in or nearby, I think that the central incline is too insubstantial to be Primrose Hill and the church spire to the left does not tally with any building then extant in the area. It may therefore be that the inscription is no more than an educated guess, based on the fact that artists at this date often sketched in the then unspoilt countryside to the north of the capital. I am, however, slightly more convinced by the second part of the inscription, which notes that the watercolour was ‘coloured on the Spot’. Judgement is complicated by the faded state of the work, which has seen the almost complete loss of the sky, but the limited palette and the broad featureless foreground make it a possibility. However, such was Girtin’s ability to blur the lines between the on-the-spot sketch and the studio work made to resemble the former’s effects in order to attract sales that it is again not possible to say whether the inscription is anything more than another educated guess.

A Panoramic Landscape

Another, even more extended panoramic view of an unidentified landscape was sold in 2007 with the credit line ‘Circle of Thomas Girtin’ (see figure 1) (Exhibitions: Lawrences, Crewkerne, 19 January 2007, lot 1290). The work is known only as a poor-quality image from the internet, and it has not been possible to confirm the attribution to Girtin. However, given that there is a tendency to ascribe any panoramic landscape produced around 1800 to the artist, who is acknowledged as the best exponent of the format, I would be very surprised if it is by him rather than any one of a large number of amateur followers. The watercolour was described as coming from the collection of Tom Girtin (1913–94), but I have found nothing in the Girtin Archive to support this, nor has any evidence of his opinion on the work been discovered either.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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