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Works Thomas Girtin

A Ship Anchored off the Coast

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1294: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Ship Anchored off the Coast, 1797–98, watercolour on laid paper, 11 × 19.6 cm, 4 ⅜ × 7 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Ship Anchored off the Coast
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper
11 × 19.6 cm, 4 ⅜ × 7 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Panoramic Format; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in July 2021


Sotheby’s, 6 July 2010, lot 240, £27,500; Timothy Clowes; his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 7 July 2021, lot 56, £11,340

About this Work

In the absence of any inscription or any distinguishable topographical features, it has not been possible to identify the location of this small coastal scene. However, the treatment of the foreground bears some resemblance to the on-the-spot colour sketch The Estuary of the River Taw (TG1281) whilst the hills in the distance are close in their colouring to a south-coast view, The Coast of Dorset, with Lyme Regis Below (TG1250), suggesting that we are looking at a scene in the West Country. Girtin’s visit to Devon and Dorset in the autumn of 1797 resulted in more coastal scenes than at any time in his career, and these include a number of smaller unidentified views that, like this example, may have been made later in the studio, such as An Unidentified Estuary (TG1293). This view of a ship at anchor, like the extended panoramic scene of a similar stretch of coastline in An Unidentified Estuary, is, I suspect, too carefully worked to have been made in the field. The foreground is certainly washed in rapidly in a way associated with a sketch coloured on the spot, but the distant hills have been built up with layers of different tones, each of which would have been left to dry before work continued. Sometime around 1796, Girtin began to produce a new type of commodity in the studio, small in scale and with a sketch-like character that might appeal to a type of collector who appreciated the informality and spontaneous quality of the on-the-spot studies coloured in the field. Although not so heavily worked as An Unidentified Estuary, this is what I think we have here. And, as a simulacrum of a Girtin sketch, the commodity works best as a generic coastal scene, rather than a portrait of a place.

(?) 1797

The Estuary of the River Taw


(?) 1797

The Coast of Dorset, with Lyme Regis Below


1798 - 1799

An Unidentified Estuary, Probably in the West Country


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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