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Works Thomas Girtin

A Weeping Willow beside a Pond

1801 - 1802

Primary Image: TG1801: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Weeping Willow beside a Pond, 1801–02, watercolour on laid paper, 9.1 × 12.7 cm, 3 ⅝ × 5 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Weeping Willow beside a Pond
1801 - 1802
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper
9.1 × 12.7 cm, 3 ⅝ × 5 in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Trees and Woods

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in June 2018


Cornelius Marshall Spink (1904–1990); then by descent to John Spink; Sotheby's, 4 July 2018, lot 181, £9,375

About this Work

This rapidly worked sketch is similar in some respects to a group of rural scenes that appear to have been made late in Girtin’s career and that may have come from a small sketchbook put together by the artist. However, whilst small watercolours such as A Barn with a Willow (TG1786) were almost certainly coloured in the studio, the exact status of this work is not so clear. Thus, although it occupies similar small proportions, includes the same landscape motifs and is worked right across the sheet to include a skyscape, other features point to a sketch coloured on the spot. These include a relatively limited palette and, most significantly, areas where the very liquid washes have blotted and others that were not allowed to dry before Girtin added another layer of colour, with a consequent loss of definition. This is true in particular of the blue used to create some of the trees beyond the willow, which has been applied with a disregard for the careful planning associated with the finished studio work. Having said that, a loss of control over colour washes is no guarantee that a watercolour was created on the spot; signs that a drawing was created in haste can be incorporated into a studio work that purports to be a sketch-like commodity and that, in the absence of any distinguishing topographical features, may actually be an imaginary subject. Some artists conveniently identify a work coloured or sketched from nature, but this was never the case with Girtin, and, given that he seems to have produced sketches for sale throughout his career, in addition to those he coloured on the spot for his own use, it is sometimes necessary to admit that, as here, it is simply not possible to be absolutely sure about the status of a work.

(?) 1802

A Barn with a Willow


by Greg Smith

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