Part of my reason for initially linking the drawing to Morland stemmed from the uncharacteristic nature of Girtin’s sketch, which sees the subject worked equally across the sheet. This, combined with the almost programmatic way in which the artist has introduced a series of different techniques to depict the contrasting textures and patterns of the building materials, as well as the vegetation, suggests that the drawing was made for reproduction in a manual for amateurs to copy and thereby master some of the basic skills of draughtsmanship. This thought is reinforced by the prominent and decorative way in which the signature and date are incorporated into the design; certainly, there is no precedent in Girtin’s drawings either for the form of the inscription or for this level and consistency of finish, which would have been of no practical use in his own practice as a landscape watercolourist. Something similar was produced by the publisher and dealer John Harris (c.1740–1811), who gathered together numerous examples of Morland’s pencil sketches and published them in the mid-1790s as a series of ‘Sketch Books’ aimed at the amateur market, providing beginners in the art with models to copy (see TG1518 figure 1). If this is indeed what Girtin had in mind, no print has been located, and any plans he may have had took a back seat at a time when he was labouring on completing the Eidometropolis, his monumental London panorama, prior to leaving for France in November of 1801.
St George’s Row, Tyburn