For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin

A River Valley and a Distant Hill Seen through Trees

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1772: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A River Valley and a Distant Hill Seen through Trees, 1800–01, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper, 22.5 × 16.8 cm, 8 ⅞ × 6 ⅝ in. The Clark Institute, Williamstown, gift of the Manton Art Foundation in memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton, 2007 (2007.8.86).

Photo courtesy of The Clark Art Institute, Gift of the Manton Art Foundation in memory of Sir Edwin and Lady Manton, 2007 (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A River Valley and a Distant Hill Seen through Trees
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper
22.5 × 16.8 cm, 8 ⅞ × 6 ⅝ in

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

Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Trees and Woods; Unidentified Landscape

Trees in a Glade Overlooking a Lake (TG1404)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Collection Catalogue; Gallery Website


Cecil Eldred Hughes (1875–1941); then by descent; bought by Deborah Gage Ltd, 1998; bought by Sir Edwin Alfred Grenville Manton (1909–2005), 1998; Manton Family Art Foundation, 2005–07; presented to the Institute, 2007


Wilton, 2001, pp.93–94; Clarke, 2012, no.144, p.266

About this Work

This rapidly worked study showing the fall of light through a clump of trees has not been identified, and a suggestion that it depicts a scene in Harewood Park in Yorkshire is not convincing (Wilton, 2001, pp.93–94). The topography shown is surely not distinctive enough to support any specific location and, indeed, the discovery during the course of the preparation of this online catalogue that the drawing essentially replicates a composition seen in a larger monochrome study (TG1404) suggests an alternative: namely, that the work is actually an imaginary view based on a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see TG1404 figure 1). The monochrome work follows Cozens’ low tones, and in addition the form of the trees and the sense of the confused mass of vegetation giving onto an open landscape charged with brilliant shafts of light reappears in this work, which also purports to be a sketch made on the spot. It is not possible for both works to have been coloured from life, and the significance of the Cozens source is that it actually undermines the imperative to identify the original or primary version, for I suspect that in both cases we are looking at an imaginary scene produced in the studio. The limited palette in A River Valley, and the way that the very liquid washes have blotted or lost their definition, may indeed suggest a work coloured on the spot, but signs that a drawing was created in haste can just as easily be incorporated into a studio work aimed at the market for Girtin’s sketches. Some artists conveniently identify a work coloured or sketched on the spot, but this was never the case with Girtin, so it is sometimes necessary to admit that it is simply not possible to be sure about the status of a work. But in this case, the existence of two versions of the same ‘sketch’ points to the conclusion that neither were made from nature and that, perhaps uniquely for the artist, he employed alternative conventions to the same end: the production of a sketch-like commodity for sale.

1799 - 1800

Trees in a Glade Overlooking a Lake


by Greg Smith

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.