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Works Thomas Girtin

A Torrent by a Clump of Trees

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1770: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Torrent by a Clump of Trees, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on paper, 15.6 × 12.9 cm, 6 ⅛ × 5 in. Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum, Loan from George and Patti White.

Photo courtesy of Harvard Art Museums / Fogg Museum (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Torrent by a Clump of Trees
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
15.6 × 12.9 cm, 6 ⅛ × 5 in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Trees and Woods; Unidentified Landscape; Waterfall Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Museum Website


Sotheby's, 24 November 1965, lot 47; bought by 'Colnaghi', £100; P & D Colnaghi & Co.; Sotheby’s, 18 June 1970, lot 135; bought by 'Birch', £190; Garrick Fine Arts, Philadelphia; Sotheby’s, 12 April 1995, lot 59, unsold; Thos. Agnew & Sons; bought by George and Patti White; lent to Harvard Art Museums, 2023

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1996, no.21

About this Work

This is one of two upright colour studies of the same small dimensions showing a clump of trees that appear to date from the same time, perhaps around 1800, the other being A Wooded Landscape (TG1771). In subjects such as this, in which there are no identifiable topographical features, dating Girtin’s sketches inevitably involves an element of guesswork, and there are times when one longs for the sort of specific inscriptions that were part of the practice of many landscape artists at this time. Such an inscription might have been more forthcoming if the watercolour had actually been sketched on the spot, but this is far from clear in this case. The work was evidently produced at some speed, and there are areas in which the darker tones used for the foliage look to have been added onto washes that have barely dried, a sign that the artist was seeking to fix a transient effect. However, the manner in which the whole sheet has been worked over to a uniform degree, with the spaces between the foliage carefully filled in with a skyscape, is more redolent of the sketch-like commodities that the artist produced in the studio to satisfy the demand from collectors for less formal examples of his output. And, added to this is the fact that the effect of falling water is by no means effectively captured, and there is little sense that it is the result of the sort of careful observation of nature associated with the empirical tradition of sketching. Signs that a drawing was created in haste to capture a transient effect are easily fabricated in the studio, and I suspect that both this work and Wooded Landscape were created within a more controlled environment than is found out of doors. Such works, I suggest, had a particular appeal to collectors who were amateur artists themselves and who might therefore have appreciated signs of the professional’s struggles. Indeed, the fact that it is not possible to be absolutely sure about the status of a work is presumably the point behind the techniques that Girtin employed in a significant number of small informal landscapes made at this date.

1800 - 1801

A Wooded Landscape


by Greg Smith

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