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Works Thomas Girtin

A Tower Above a Lake

(?) 1794

Primary Image: TG0195: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Tower Above a Lake, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on an early mount, 11.7 × 19 cm, 4 ⅝ × 7 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Abbott and Holder, London

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • A Tower Above a Lake
Date
(?) 1794
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on an early mount
Dimensions
11.7 × 19 cm, 4 ⅝ × 7 ½ in
Mount Dimensions
13.6 × 19.8 cm, 5 ⅜ × 7 ¾ in
Inscription

‘T. Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin; 'Save that from yonder ivy-mantled tow'r / The moping owl does to the moon complain / Of such as wandring near her secret bow'r / Molest her antient solitary reign' on the original mount, in another hand

Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0195
Description Source(s)
Viewed in April 2022

Provenance

Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); ... Christie’s, 27 March 1936, lot 1 as one of 'Six other Sepia Drawings of Landscapes and Sky Studies'; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons; Norman Dakeyne Newall (1888–1952); his widow, Leslia Newall (d.1979); Christie’s, 14 December 1979, part of lot 249, £3,500; ... Abbott and Holder, 2022

About this Work

This signed landscape study is one of a group of seven small monochrome watercolours that were sold together at auction in 1936 (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 27 March 1936, lot 1). Two of the drawings identified as part of the group are dated 1794, A Cloud Study (TG0186) and Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank (TG0188). Given that all of them appear to be on the same laid paper of similar dimensions, it is possible that they came from a sketchbook that was split up. A later inscription on Jedburgh Abbey notes that the drawing was once in the collection of Girtin’s most significant early patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and it was presumably at this time that the seven watercolours were mounted on uniform sheets of brown paper to which was added in this example four lines from the Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard (1751) by Thomas Gray (1716–71). The lines are in the same hand as the inscription on the image of Jedburgh and there is no question that it is either by Girtin himself or that the landscape study was produced to illustrate the poem. Certainly, the early date of the drawing precludes the possibility that it was produced at a meeting of the Sketching Society where the members responded to similar poetic passages and, instead, I suspect that it was added later, either by Monro himself or by one of his children because its format resembled the landscapes drawn at the sociable gatherings attended by Girtin in 1799 and early 1800. Thus, although the tower is similar to Dolbadarn Castle on Llyn Padarn (see TG0910), the drawing as a whole appears to be the product of the imagination and unlike the two cloud studies (TG0186 and TG0199) it displays no evidence of being worked directly from nature as one might expect from a small-scale work executed with some degree of haste.

All of which raises a question about the attribution of the work since, despite the signature on this and the other sketches in the group, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak did not include any of them in their 1954 catalogue of the artist’s works and Tom Girtin (1913–94) also later rejected the attribution outright, presumably believing the signatures to have been forgeries added to the sketches of another artist (Girtin and Loshak, 1954). It must be admitted that the quality of this work, in particular, is poor and I am not sure that I would have associated it with Girtin unless it had so clearly been part of a group of drawings which includes two cloud studies that are signed and dated and also of a high quality. So that whilst I must admit the possibility that the signatures might have been added by another hand, perhaps even by a member of the Monro family, on balance, I believe that they are genuine and that the variable quality of the sketches stems from their early date. Moreover, the fact that each of the sketches is signed at a time during Girtin’s career when it was generally only his exhibited works that are inscribed with his name, suggests that even as early as 1794, right at the beginning of his association with Monro, Girtin had discovered an outlet for his sketches and that this extended to works of imagination, as well as more conventional nature studies.

1794

A Cloud Study

TG0186

1794

Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank

TG0188

1794 - 1797

Dolbadarn Castle on Llyn Padarn

TG0910

1794

A Cloud Study

TG0186

(?) 1794

A Sky Study

TG0199

by Greg Smith

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