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Works Thomas Girtin

A River Scene, Probably the Dee near Corwen

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1348: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A River Scene, Probably the Dee near Corwen, 1798–99, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 13.2 × 17.3 cm, 5 ¼ × 6 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (59.55.593).

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A River Scene, Probably the Dee near Corwen
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
13.2 × 17.3 cm, 5 ¼ × 6 ¾ in

‘T. Girtin Conway’ on the back, not in Girtin’s hand

Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; Visible Fold in the Paper
Subject Terms
North Wales; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
263 as '"Conway"'; '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


P & D Colnaghi & Co., 1949; Gilbert Davis (1899–1983); bought from him by the Gallery, 1959

Exhibition History

Huntington, 1993, no catalogue

About this Work

This small watercolour was titled ‘Conwy’ by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak in their catalogue of Girtin’s watercolours, though it appears to show the same bridge over the river Dee that is depicted in an on-the-spot colour sketch that is inscribed ‘Scene near Corwen … 16 Augt 1798’ (TG1347) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.263). The inscription on the back of this drawing, which reads ‘T Girtin Conwy’, is incorrect, therefore, and it is presumably not by the artist, and the fact that Girtin and Loshak added inverted commas to their title suggests that they also doubted the identification of the bridge as being located on the road between Conwy and Benarth. The probable identification of the scene and its link to the return leg of Girtin’s journey to North Wales also help to allay any doubts about the attribution of a work that is in poor condition, since the watercolour’s faded state has left the artist’s distinctive pencil work showing up prominently.

Almost as problematic is the specific function of a work that Girtin and Loshak dated to 1798, presumably on the grounds that they thought that it was made on the spot during Girtin’s trip to North Wales in that year. However, although the work is executed on a piece of paper with the same dimensions as the Corwen view, which alone of all the artist’s on-the-spot colour sketches is dated, I suspect that this watercolour was actually made in the studio. This is confirmed by the inclusion of a series of figure groups and a coach and horses, narrative elements indicating that an element of planning went into the work. The foregrounds of Girtin’s on-the-spot sketches include only the sketchiest figures, and then only rarely, and, as with the view of Corwen, they are never carefully delineated as here. In fact, the two views of the Dee could not be better calculated to illustrate the distinction between the colour sketch executed by the artist with dispatch on the spot as part of his working practice, and a studio production that apes the informal characteristics of the former but that might be sold to collectors appreciative of Girtin’s more spontaneous studies.

A Landscape with a Bridge

Another view of what appears to be the same bridge, though taken from a different viewpoint, has been attributed to Girtin under the title Landscape with Bridge (see figure 1). It has not yet been possible to confirm the authorship of the work, but my first impressions are that it is not by Girtin and that any resemblance to the Corwen subjects is probably coincidental.


The River Dee, near Corwen


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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