For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin after Herman van Swanevelt

A Wooded Landscape with a Hermit


Primary Image: TG1915: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55), A Wooded Landscape with a Hermit, 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 33 × 46.8 cm, 13 × 18 ⅜ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.43-1924).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55), etching, The Holy Family Resting on the Flight into Egypt, c.1652-54, 20.8 × 27 cm, 8 ³⁄₁₆ × 10 ⅝ in. The Cleveland Museum of Art (1943.625.4).

Photo courtesy of The Cleveland Museum of Art, Mr. and Mrs. Lewis B. Williams Collection (CC0 1.0 Universal)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Herman van Swanevelt (1603-1655)
  • A Wooded Landscape with a Hermit
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
33 × 46.8 cm, 13 × 18 ⅜ in

‘Girtin-1801-Paris’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Foreign Master
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
456 as 'Romantic Landscape (With Hermit)'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Frederick Charles Maisey (1825–92); bought by the Museum, 1924 (said to have been bought from Thomas Girtin in Paris by an ancestor of the vendor)

Exhibition History

USA, 1966–67, no.44; Manchester, 1975, no.95; London, 1976, no.61; New York, 1988, no.53; Chiba, 2002, no.20


Lintott, 1926, p.234; V&A, 1926, p.32; V&A, 1927, p.233; Davies, 1928, pp.221–22; Binyon, 1933, pp.111–12; Hardie, 1934, p.6, p.14; Mayne, 1949, p.60, p.98; Williams, 1952, p.107; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.80–81; Maison, 1960, p.23; Maison, 1966, p.29; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.12, p.17; Ost, 1971, pp.66–70; Wilton, 1976, p.332; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.151 as 'Landscape with a Hermit'; Morris, 1986, p.18

About this Work

This is one of three landscapes that Girtin produced in the first month of his stay in Paris from etchings by the seventeenth-century Dutch landscape artist Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55) (the others being TG1913 and TG1914). Girtin arrived in the French capital at the end of November 1801 and presumably acquired the etchings almost immediately, as he inscribed each of the watercolours ‘Girtin Paris 1801’. Why Girtin chose to mark his arrival in France by copying etchings of imaginary classical landscapes is far from clear, though he had by this date probably already made a number of copies after prints by earlier artists, such as Marco Ricci (1676–1730) (including TG1916). Girtin had travelled to France with his London panorama, hoping to put it on display, and it may be that with no other plans in mind – the idea for a set of prints of Paris views came later – he turned to a secondary source for inspiration, having been disappointed by the potential of French scenery as a subject. As he later noted in a conversation with Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809), the ‘landscapes of France’ were ‘spotty, naked, having no hedges and trees … with few grand masses, ragged broken lines, little verdure, and a prevailing grey tone’ – altogether unsuited to an artist like Girtin, in other words (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.492).1

Swanevelt’s etching Rest on the Flight into Egypt (see the source image above) provided everything the scenery of northern France lacked, though Girtin still set about simplifying the composition. The watercolour, which conforms to one of the standard sizes of his late works, roughly 30.5 × 53.3 cm (12 × 21 in), is much larger than the print, which measures 20 × 27 cm (8 ⅛ × 10 ⅝  in), but the artist opened up the landscape, omitting the overarching tree in the foreground and consequently creating a lighter and more picturesque scene where the more distant trees are arranged as ‘grand masses’ rather than showing up as individual specimens. These are washed in at speed, suggesting, if we did not know better, that the whole was sketched from life. Girtin was also careful to simplify the subject of the work, replacing a scene in the early life of Christ with a more generalised religious theme centred on a cave-dwelling hermit and a wayside cross. Significantly, he also translated the tones of the etching into an uncharacteristically colourful palette, which, in its unfaded condition, provides a startling contrast with the more muted works of his maturity. Could it be that Girtin travelled without pigments and had to change his palette, using only what he could obtain in the French capital? 


A Wooded River in an Extensive Landscape



A River Scene with a Castle on a Cliff


1800 - 1801

An Italianate Landscape with Two Monks


by Greg Smith


  1. 1 Holcroft’s unique eye-witness account of Girtin at work during the excursions they undertook in and around Paris in the early spring of 1802, published in the second volume of Travels from Hamburg, through Westphalia, Holland, and the Netherlands, to Paris, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 1).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.