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Works Thomas Girtin

An Unidentified Landscape (A Moorland View)

(?) 1794

Primary Image: TG1376: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Unidentified Landscape (A Moorland View), (?) 1794, watercolour on laid paper, 11.4 × 18.8 cm, 4 ½ × 7 ⅜ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.136).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Unidentified Landscape (A Moorland View)
(?) 1794
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper
11.4 × 18.8 cm, 4 ½ × 7 ⅜ in
Part of
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
An Imaginary Scene; Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
403 as 'Moorland View ... Indian Ink Sketch'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2018


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911); then by a settlement to his sister, Mary Hog Barnard (née Girtin) (1828–99); then by descent to Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931); his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Exhibition History

London, 2002, no.29 as ’c.1794’


Brown, 1982, p.339, no.740 as 'c.1800'

About this Work

This monochrome study of an unidentified landscape is closely related to a group of seven small watercolours that were sold together at auction in 1936 (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 27 March 1936, lot 1). Two of the drawings identified as part of the group are dated 1794 – A Cloud Study (TG0186) and Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank (TG0188) – and given that all of them appear to be on the same laid paper and of similar dimensions to the sheet on which this landscape is painted, it is possible that they came from a sketchbook that was subsequently split up. A modern inscription on Jedburgh Abbey notes that the seven monochrome landscapes were once in the collection of Girtin’s early patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and there is anecdotal evidence that they went to New Zealand in 1841 after his death, but this drawing remained in the possession of the artist’s family. This may be explained by the fact that three of the drawings are signed and two are dated at a period in Girtin’s career when he only rarely inscribed his works. If the monochrome drawings did come from a sketchbook, it seems that it was split up at an early date, probably by Girtin himself, and that he added signatures and dates as the sketches were sold, with this work presumably remaining in his hands.

There is some uncertainty about the precise purpose and function of this drawing and what appears to be its companion amongst the group of landscapes sold in 1936, An Unidentified Landscape, Known as ‘The Pool’ (TG1377). Thus, whilst the two sky studies (TG0186 and TG0199) show clear signs of being sketched on the spot, and the view of Jedburgh Abbey must have been copied from the work of another artist, these two very generalised landscapes appear to be imaginary scenes. The formulaic skies in the two drawings may have been dashed in with similar dispatch, but nothing resembles the carefully noted cumulous clouds depicted in the dated study, and the landscape is so undetermined as to defeat attempts to establish a meaningful title. Indeed, the sketch was known as ‘A Moorland View’ and dated to c.1800 by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, who presumably linked its summary style to sketches made on one of the artist’s later northern tours (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.189). However, it seems that even as early as 1794, right at the beginning of his association with Monro, Girtin had already begun to find an outlet for his sketches and that this extended to works of imagination that purported to have been made on the spot, as well as more conventional nature studies.

The paper historian Peter Bower examined the paper used for this drawing prior to its display in the bicentenary Girtin exhibition at Tate Britain and identified it as a white laid writing paper produced by an unknown English paper manufacturer, worked on the wireside, where the surface is impressed with the lines of the mould used in its manufacture (Smith, 2002b, p.49; Bower, Report).


A Cloud Study



Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank


(?) 1794

An Unidentified Landscape, Known as ‘The Pool’



A Cloud Study


(?) 1794

A Sky Study


by Greg Smith

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