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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

A Pastoral Scene with Cattle

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0869: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), A Pastoral Scene with Cattle, 1795–96, watercolour on paper, 24.8 × 41.9 cm, 9 ¾ × 16 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Pastoral Scene with Cattle
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
24.8 × 41.9 cm, 9 ¾ × 16 ½ in
Object Type
Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Animal Study; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
76 as 'Pastoral Scene with Cattle' by Thomas Girtin, 'After Laporte'; '1794'
Description Source(s)
Girtin Archive Photograph


P & D Colnaghi & Co., 1951


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.32

About this Work

This relatively large-scale watercolour was included by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak in their catalogue of Girtin’s work as a copy by him of a composition by John Laporte (1761–1839), though they did not specify the identity of the model (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.144). Noting that Girtin’s early patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) ‘had many drawings by this artist’, they suggested that the work was probably copied at his house, presumably at the same time that Girtin was working with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) to create numerous copies of the works of John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and other artists, professional and amateur. Monro had disposed of the majority of his watercolours and bodycolours by Laporte prior to his death in a series of anonymous sales that, from as early as 1797, also included works by Girtin himself. However, none of the items in any of Monro’s sales, including his posthumous sale, match the work here, and extensive searches through photograph libraries and other picture sources have failed to throw up anything by Laporte even generally resembling this river scene. It is therefore tempting to conclude that this appears to be a case of Girtin and Loshak making an attribution based on a hypothesis unsupported by any evidence.

Our understanding of this watercolour is hampered further by the fact that it is only known from a poor-quality black and white photograph from the Girtin Archive (12/2) that dates from its only recorded public appearance, at Colnaghi's in London in 1951. Working from this image, all that can be said with any confidence is that if the watercolour is by Girtin, and that is far from clear, stylistically it would probably date from earlier than the 1794 proposed by Girtin and Loshak. Given that the artist does not seem to have had any association with Monro until the latter part of that year, this would in itself rule out a source for the work in one of the Laporte watercolours in the patron’s collection. With no further evidence to hand, the attribution to Girtin can best be described as speculative, therefore, though the reappearance of the work would clarify its status once and for all.

by Greg Smith

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