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Works Thomas Girtin

An Unidentified Small Country House

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1558: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Unidentified Small Country House, 1798–99, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 23 × 34.2 cm, 9 × 13 ½ in. Dowle Fine Art.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Unidentified Small Country House
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
23 × 34.2 cm, 9 × 13 ½ in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; 'Mrs. P … /26 June' on an old label

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
The Smaller House and Garden; Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2012 and 2021


C. Thomas Toppin; Sotheby’s, 16 July 1987, lot 44 as 'A Country Inn', unsold; Sotheby’s, 10 March 1988, lot 6 as 'A Country Inn'; Andrew Wyld (1949-2011); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 10 July 2012, lot 65 as 'A country house', £3,250; Timothy Clowes; his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 23 September 2021, lot 144, £1,260; Dowle Fine Art

Exhibition History

Andrew Wyld, 1986, no.16 as ’A Lodge near an Entrance to a Country Park’


Morris, 1985, pp.41–45

About this Work

This view of an unidentified small country house or lodge has much in common with another work of about the same date (TG1560). Roughly the same size, it too shows a modestly scaled modern house designed in the fashionable picturesque vernacular style of John Nash (1752–1835) (see TG1560 figure 1). Shared details link the two – such as the tiled roofs, the prominent bow fronts with their extensive windows designed to look out over the view, and the pronounced asymmetry of the designs – and I suspect that this work too was executed by Girtin from a set of elevations from an architect’s office. Certainly, there are no signs that the work was derived from a sketch made on the spot, and the landscape element has the same conventional feeling, meaning that it lacks a sense of unity with the building. The reason the subject of the work has not been identified, therefore, may be because it never existed other than on paper, and I suspect that the drawing was commissioned from Girtin by an architect to give a prospective client an idea of how a new estate building might enhance the picturesque appeal of their property. That Girtin was still prepared to take on the essentially hack work of the architectural perspectivist well into his career, perhaps even as late as 1799–1800, is perhaps not so surprising as it may initially seem, given the fact that the skills of a topographical artist are easily transferrable to such a task. More telling, perhaps, is the fact that Girtin employed the full range of naturalistic effects of weather and light to disguise his role, which was essentially to create the illusion that a project had in fact stood for generations as an integral part of a landscape. 

The Penrhyn Arms at Port Penrhyn, near Bangor

Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) also worked for various architects in the 1790s, including Samuel Wyatt (1737–1807), for whom he produced a fine perspective view from drawings made in his office, a work today titled The Penrhyn Arms at Port Penrhyn (see figure 1). This was for a time attributed to Girtin himself, though the cataloguers of his watercolours, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, called it A House on the Bank of a Creek (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, no.125, p.151). More recently, Susan Morris has convincingly argued that it is by Turner after all, and it was she too who correctly identified the subject and the architect (Morris, 1983, p.35).

1798 - 1800

An Unidentified Small Country House or Lodge


by Greg Smith

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