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Works Thomas Girtin

An Imaginary Coast Scene with the Horizontal Air Mill at Battersea

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1408: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Imaginary Coast Scene with the Horizontal Air Mill at Battersea, 1797–98, graphite on paper (watermark: E JOHNSON 1795), 12.7 × 24.1 cm, 5 × 9 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Dominic Winter Auctioneers (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Imaginary Coast Scene with the Horizontal Air Mill at Battersea
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper (watermark: E JOHNSON 1795)
12.7 × 24.1 cm, 5 × 9 ½ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Wind and Water Mills

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Martyn Gregory Ltd, 1986; Dominic Winter Auctioneers, 21 July 2022, lot 301 as 'Study of a Lighthouse, probably South Foreland Lighthouse', £180; Hawes Fine Art

Exhibition History

Martyn Gregory, London, 1986, no.63 as ’Study of a Lighthouse’, £650

About this Work

Samuel Rawle (1775–1860), etching, 'A View of Battersea' for <i>The European Magazine</i>, 1 April 1804, 11.5 × 17.5 cm, 4 ½ × 6 ⅞ in. British Museum, London (1875,0710.5339).

This highly unusual drawing appeared on the art market in 1986 with the not unreasonable title of ‘Study of a Lighthouse’, but in fact it shows the horizontal air mill at Battersea on the river Thames, reimagined in a coastal setting. The distinctive diamond-shaped shutters that enclose the ingenious arrangement of sails within can be seen in Samuel Rawle’s (1775–1860) contemporary engraving A View of Battersea (see figure 1). And the same structure also features in Girtin’s celebrated composition Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (TG1740), where it is contrasted with the more conventional windmill near the white house that gives the work its popular title. The addition of a picturesque coastal scene of thatched buildings and distant shipping, with a clear reference to the landscape drawings of the Dutch masters of the seventeenth century, nonetheless turns the mill into a very credible lighthouse, and in the process creates the illusion that we are looking at a sketch made on the spot during one of the artist’s tours. This, I suspect, was the intention behind its creation, and the work was therefore another way of serving the market for Girtin’s informal studies from the studio.


Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (The White House, Chelsea)


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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