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Works Thomas Girtin after Unknown Artist

An Unidentified Coastal Landscape with a Windmill

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG0909: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after an Unknown Artist, An Unidentified Coastal Landscape with a Windmill, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 16.3 × 32.6 cm, 6 ⅜ × 12 ¾ in. Lady Lever Art Gallery, Port Sunlight (LL 2944).

Photo courtesy of Lady Lever Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Unknown Artist
  • An Unidentified Coastal Landscape with a Windmill
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
16.3 × 32.6 cm, 6 ⅜ × 12 ¾ in
Object Type
Copy from an Unknown Source; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Wind and Water Mills

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


James Orrock (1829–1913); bought from him by William Hesketh Lever, 1st Viscount Leverhume (1851–1925), 1910, £20; presented 1922

Exhibition History

Hove, 1993, no.18 as ’A windmill by the coast at Harwich’


Feather, 2010, p.102 as 'Landscape with windmill on hilly ground by the sea'

About this Work

This panoramic landscape has gone under the title ‘A Windmill by the Coast at Harwich, Essex’, and, in an exhibition on the subject of the windmill in British art of the period it was said that the setting is ‘consistent with engraved views of the port’ (Wilcox, 1993, p.58). However, not only is it unlikely that Girtin visited the coast on his only visit to Essex, sometime around 1798–99, but also an extensive search of the visual imagery associated with the port has not revealed any evidence to link this image with Harwich. The key to the identity of the mill – and, indeed, the function and date of the watercolour – lies, I suspect, in its resemblance to another drawing that has the same measurements as well as a similar faded and water-damaged condition, A Town on an Estuary (TG0903). What may therefore be this work’s pair is based on a print after a composition by Philips Koninck (1619–88) (see source image TG0903) that in the eighteenth century was attributed to Rembrandt Harmenszoon van Rijn (1606–69). Thus, rather than being a topographical view, this Girtin watercolour may also have been produced after an earlier untraced Dutch landscape; this would explain the form of the settlement to the left of the composition here, which bears no resemblance to a British port. The sizes and formats of the two works, which are both exactly in the proportion of one to two, tellingly have no precedent in Girtin’s work, suggesting that these two were worked together and that the missing source for this work resembled the engraving by Jean Baptiste Chatelain (c.1710–58) that the artist used for A Town on an Estuary. If I am correct, then we should be looking at a date closer to 1800 than the 1795–97 that has hitherto been proposed for this work. It follows from that, as with its likely pair, that this work too was produced for sale on the open market as a new type of commodity pioneered by Girtin. The artist’s earlier watercolour versions of engravings were produced for patrons such as Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and John Henderson (1764–1843), who owned the reproductive prints themselves, but the new commodity was more about what the artist could bring to the exercise, with his own skills pitted against an admired predecessor in a show of his proficiency in the watercolour medium. The great pity is that both of the panoramic compositions examined here have suffered so badly that Girtin’s efforts are now difficult to appreciate fully.

1799 - 1800

A Town on an Estuary


1799 - 1800

A Town on an Estuary


by Greg Smith

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