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Works Thomas Girtin

A Study of a Woman Reading

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG1514: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Study of a Woman Reading, 1794–95, graphite on paper, 15.2 × 9.6 cm, 6 × 3 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F03436-0005 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Study of a Woman Reading
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
15.2 × 9.6 cm, 6 × 3 ¾ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Figure Study

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue; Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive


John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929); his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 29 May 1935, lot 313; volume bought by Bernard Squire, £32; bought by Walter C. Hetherington (d.1978); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 14 February 1978, lot 57, £320

About this Work

This study of a girl reading was not included by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak in their catalogue of the artist’s works. It came from an album of drawings from the collection of John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929) that was well known to the artist's ancestor, however, and so it was presumably excluded because he did not think it was by Girtin. This is surprising because it appears to depict the same girl seen in another figure study (TG1515), down to the same costume, and it is on a piece of paper of similar dimensions. Likewise, the drawings share the same jagged, jerky outlines, and I suspect that they may even have been executed at the same session, probably around 1794–95, rather than the 1800 suggested by Girtin and Loshak for the companion sketch. If the coloured study of the same girl is by Girtin, I cannot see any reason not to attribute this drawing to the artist as well, and indeed in some ways it is a superior effort, with the form of the arms, for instance, much improved. Nonetheless, the voluminous folds of the dress still mask the figure, and the lack of articulation between the upper and lower parts of the body means that her seated position is unconvincing, all of which suggests the work of a young artist who had not gone through the rigours of academic training. If this was the case, rather than being a study of the artist’s wife, as Girtin and Loshak imply of the companion drawing, could it be that this drawing also depicts his sister Mary, who was born in 1777? Together with the artist himself, she was still living in the home of their mother at St Martin’s-le-Grand around 1794–95.

1794 - 1795

A Study of a Young Girl


by Greg Smith

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