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Works (?) William Pearson

An Unidentified Landscape, with a Church amongst Trees

1798 - 1805

Primary Image: TG1775: (?) William Pearson (1772–1849), An Unidentified Landscape, with a Church amongst Trees, 1798–1805, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 11.7 × 17.6 cm, 4 ⅝ × 6 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1205).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

(?) William Pearson (1772-1849)
  • An Unidentified Landscape, with a Church amongst Trees
1798 - 1805
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
11.7 × 17.6 cm, 4 ⅝ × 6 ⅞ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
419 as 'Church Amongst Woods', by Thomas Girtin; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1962a, no.160


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.83; YCBA Online as 'Attributed to William Pearson' (Accessed 20/09/2022)

About this Work

This small sketch of an unknown landscape subject was included in Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak’s catalogue of Girtin’s work, where it was described as ‘beautiful’ and ‘remarkable for its sound economy of structure’, and was listed amongst the artist’s latest sketches, from 1800–1801 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.83 and 191). This is not an opinion that has been shared more recently, as Susan Morris did not include the sketch in her catalogue of the fine collection of Girtin’s drawings at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, which were largely acquired, as here, from the Girtin family (Morris, 1986), whilst the gallery itself currently lists it in its online catalogue as ‘attributed to William Pearson'. Either as an example of the shift in taste over the past seventy years or, less charitably, as a sad instance of the way in which ownership (and thus a financial interest in a work) can colour objectivity, the attribution by Girtin and Loshak is clearly untenable. Regarding the latter point, the fact that the watercolour was first recorded in the family collection in the time of the artist’s son, Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74), is not significant, since the bulk of the works he owned were bought on the art market, and this work was almost certainly not inherited directly.

From Boxley Hill, near Maidstone

The suggestion that the work is by William Pearson (1772–1849) is no doubt based on its similarity to a signed and dated example of a comparable subject, From Boxley Hill, near Maidstone (see figure 1), in the same collection, and a larger studio work from 1802, Mountains and Lake (see TG1400 figure 3), tends to confirm the possibility. There was a time when any uncertain versions of a Girtin composition tended to attract an attribution to Pearson, and works such as Berry Pomeroy Castle (TG1271) and Hereford Cathedral, from across the River Wye (see TG1364 figure 2) have with varying degrees of success been linked to him. In this case, the closest comparison I can find is with a version of Easby Abbey, from the River Swale (TG1060), which, although it was also wrongly attributed by Girtin and Loshak to Girtin, seems to be by the same hand responsible for this unidentified landscape, though whether that was Pearson or an anonymous amateur copyist cannot finally be ascertained.

1798 - 1803

Berry Pomeroy Castle


1797 - 1798

Easby Abbey, from the River Swale


by Greg Smith

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