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Works Thomas Girtin

A Panoramic View near Lyme Regis

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1253: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Panoramic View near Lyme Regis, 1797–98, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on a mount of wove paper, 24 × 54.9 cm, 9 ½ × 21 ⅝ in. National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (5065).

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Panoramic View near Lyme Regis
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on a mount of wove paper
24 × 54.9 cm, 9 ½ × 21 ⅝ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Panoramic Format; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

A View near Lyme Regis (TG1252)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
239 as 'Above Lyme Regis, Dorset'
Description Source(s)
Exhibition Catalogue; Gallery Website


Edward Cohen (1817–86); then by bequest to his niece, Annie Sophia Poulter (c.1846–1924); then by descent to Edward Alexander Poulter (1883–1973); J. Palser & Sons; bought by Victor Rienaecker (1887–1972), 25 May 1926; Winifred M. Church; her sale, Sotheby’s, 4 May 1949, lot 2; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £460; bought by the Gallery, 1950

Exhibition History

Washington, 1989a, no.81; New York, 1999, no number; Ottawa, 2005, no.19


Morris, 1986, p.17

About this Work

This is one of two panoramic views of the upland landscape near Lyme Regis in Dorset (the other being TG1254) that Girtin painted on his return from his 1797 tour to the West Country. It was produced from an equally extensive pencil drawing of the high ground near the coastal resort (TG1252). The artist is documented as having been in Exeter in early November, and it seems that his visit there to sketch an interior view of the cathedral was preceded by a journey through Dorset that took in Weymouth and Abbotsbury, as well as Lyme Regis, where he also produced a significant on-the-spot colour study looking down to the town (TG1250) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 The pair of panoramic views were taken from the same location, a few kilometres to the north east of Lyme, and, as Susan Morris has shown, this view looks south east from the Iron Age hill fort at Pilsdon Pen towards Portland in the distance on the coast, whilst the other scene, taken from the lower slopes of the fort, looks to the south west (Morris, 2016, p.14). Shown together, the two watercolours would have formed an extended view covering over half of a full 360-degree panorama. There was a precedent for this in Girtin’s work, in the form of the three outline drawings of London that make up the Panorama of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace (TG1378, TG1379 and TG1380), which appear to have been commissioned by Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Covering a view made famous by Canaletto (Giovanni Antonio Canal (1697–1768)), and including some of the city’s most famous monuments, they have an obvious subject interest that these views of the Dorset landscape lack. The scenes are not exactly featureless, but they have no obvious focus, and the landmarks they feature require detailed local knowledge to be appreciated or, indeed, identified; it is the sheer ordinariness of the views, as much as their panoramic format, that constitutes their status as a radical innovation, therefore. It is hard to believe that they were simply views that caught Girtin’s attention as he travelled between Abbotsbury and Lyme, and indeed the spot from which they were taken, one of the highest points in the county, would have required a significant detour. The watercolours must therefore surely have been commissioned by someone with a close connection with the area. The early provenance of the works is not known, however, and frustratingly it has not been possible to establish the precise circumstances of the production of key works in the development of Girtin’s exploration of the panoramic mode.

Such a statement might carry rather more weight if the two panoramic Lyme views were dated, but only a handful of works at this stage in Girtin’s career are. The pencil drawing on which this watercolour is based was surely made in 1797, however, and stylistically both works are comparable with another view of Lyme, which Girtin probably showed at the 1798 Royal Academy exhibition (TG1251), particularly for the way in which the landscape in the distance is treated. Both panoramic Lyme views are markedly more successful in their depiction of the foreground and its relationship to the distance, however, and in that respect they also mark a significant advance on the other early panorama with the same one-to-two proportions produced at this time, The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins (TG1229). The lively and more complex skyscape, matched by a varied distribution of light, unifies the composition of this view of the Dorset upland in a way that suggests a growing confidence in the use of the panoramic mode.

1797 - 1798

Above Lyme Regis, Looking across Marshwood Vale


(?) 1797

A View near Lyme Regis


(?) 1797

The Coast of Dorset, with Lyme Regis Below


(?) 1796

A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section One: Somerset House to Blackfriars Bridge


(?) 1796

A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section Two: The Surrey Bank


(?) 1796

A Panoramic View of the Thames from the Adelphi Terrace, Section Three: Westminster Bridge to York Stairs


1797 - 1798

The Coast of Dorset, with Lyme Regis Below


1797 - 1798

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The financial records of the artist's brother John Girtin (1773–1821) include two loans he made to Thomas Girtin during the trip. The records are transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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