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Works Thomas Girtin

A Sandpit, near Logs Hill, Widmore

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1422: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Sandpit, near Logs Hill, Widmore, 1798–99, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 28 × 42 cm, 11 × 16 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Abbott and Holder, London (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Sandpit, near Logs Hill, Widmore
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
28 × 42 cm, 11 × 16 ½ in

'Sand pit. / near Loggs Hill / Widmore / Bromley / Kent' on the back of an old mount, now lost

Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Dover and Kent; Trees and Woods

A Sandpit, near Logs Hill, Widmore (TG1421)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in March 2023


Sotheby’s, 11 April 1991, lot 53, unsold; Abbott and Holder, London, 2023 (List 535 Part II, no.65)

About this Work

This rather faded drawing can be identified as showing a sandpit near Logs Hill in Widmore, Kent, on the basis of an inscription on the back of an old mount. This is not in Girtin’s handwriting, but it was presumably either based on his lost inscription or added by a collector with good local knowledge. This does not seem to have been Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough (1772–1837), the artist’s pupil and patron, however, for, though it has been suggested that this and similar scenes were made ‘during visits’ to her home, she and her husband, Charles Long, 1st Baron Farnborough (1760–1838), did not actually acquire the Bromley Hill estate until 1801, a few years after the probable date of this sketch (Exhibitions: Sotheby’s, 11 April 1991, lot 53). Other Girtin patrons, including William Wells (1768–1847) of Redleaf in Kent, whose posthumous sale included ‘A gravel pit, near Bromley, in Kent’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 22 January 1857, lot 313), and Elizabeth Weddell (1749–1831), were also associated with the area, but none of the works appear to have been commissioned, and it may be that the artist sketched the location on the way to or from the south coast or even on a day trip from London. Logs Hill is located only a few metres away from the old cottage in Widmore that was the subject of a major watercolour painted by Girtin around 1800–01 (TG1749), and the artist presumably sketched this at the same time, or possibly earlier, around 1798–99.

Working from a black and white image, I initially thought that this is an on-the-spot colour sketch, comparing it with Trees and Pond (TG1420) which is also said to have been sketched from nature nearby in Bromley. The foreground, in particular, is coloured with great dispatch and the lightly worked areas of vegetation seem more characteristic of Girtin’s sketching practice with the result that I tentatively concluded that it was used as the basis for a second version of the composition (TG1421). That work is known only from a very poor-quality black and white photograph, but the more carefully realised foreground suggested that it is a studio work which elaborates this drawing. However, the recent opportunity to view the work as well as the procurement of a good colour image has led to a rethink. It is now clear that the watercolour has faded so that the clouds in the sky have disappeared and, with the greens of the vegetation compromised, the sense of depth which results from the more complex procedures employed in the studio has been lost, with whole areas reduced to the sort of simple blocks of colour that commonly signify a sketch made on the spot. Careful examination, however, shows the use of stopping out which requires a degree of planning not associated with the rapidly produced sketch made in the field together with a complex build up of superimposed tones – up to three in parts of the vegetation – that would require time to complete. With its pre-faded skyscape in place, the sheet would have been worked over uniformly in a way only very rarely found in Girtin’s on-the-spot sketches. The point is not that it would have been impossible for the artist to have painted such a work out of doors to this level of completion, but that there was no reason for him to have done so. Moreover, it is actually the element of ambiguity and uncertainty which is one of Girtin’s most radical characteristics as a landscape artist as he wilfully obscured the boundaries between the sketch and the finished work to brilliant effect. Thinking again about the subject of the work, I also now wonder if the identification of the 'Sandpit' in the foreground is more related to the work's faded condition than any topographical feature.

1800 - 1801

The Old Cottage, Widmore, near Bromley


1798 - 1799

Trees and Pond, Said to Be near Bromley


1798 - 1799

A Sandpit, near Logs Hill, Widmore


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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