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Works Thomas Girtin

An Unidentified Small Country House or Lodge

1798 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1560: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Unidentified Small Country House or Lodge, 1798–1800, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper, 20.5 × 33 cm, 8 ⅛ × 13 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.5668).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Unidentified Small Country House or Lodge
1798 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on laid paper
20.5 × 33 cm, 8 ⅛ × 13 in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
The Smaller House and Garden; Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
215 as 'Unidentified Country House'; '1797'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Cotman Gallery, Birmingham, 1930, as by Henry Edridge (1769–1821); bought by Iolo Aneurin Williams (1890–1962); P & D Colnaghi & Co; bought from them by Paul Mellon (1907–99) presented to the Center, 1977

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.52


Morris, 1985, pp.41–45; YCBA Online as 'Country House' (Accessed 18/09/2022)

About this Work

Hollycombe, near Linch, West Sussex: Elevation of the Garden Front

This watercolour is one of a pair of views of a small country house or lodge that has not yet been identified; the other, which shows the building from further away in the same direction, is set within an extensive landscape setting (TG1559). As Susan Morris has suggested, the building bears a distinct resemblance to the buildings of John Nash (1752–1835), and the entrance porch to the right recalls the similar feature in Girtin’s view of the south front of Chalfont Lodge (TG1562), which was designed by the highly successful architect around 1800 (Morris, 1985, p.44). The central bow front, with its extensive fenestration designed to look out over the view, is another common feature of Nash’s designs for small country houses and lodges that, as at Chalfont, complement the main mansion and provide a suitable picturesque eye-catcher for the estate. Nash’s design for Hollycombe in West Sussex (see figure 1) employs many of the same vernacular elements that commonly feature in the picturesque estate buildings that were designed to accompany the informal landscape designs of Nash’s collaborator, Humphry Repton (1752–1818), at this date. In this case, the building’s asymmetry, enhanced by the oblique viewpoint adopted by Girtin, helps to create the illusion that the new building grew up haphazardly over the centuries, and the garden setting here, and the wider landscape in its pair, reinforces the point. 

Morris dated the work to 1797 on stylistic grounds, and she speculated that it may have been sketched on Girtin’s trip to the West Country in that year as preparation for a commission from the house’s owner. This is not impossible, though I would take issue with the early date and, indeed, I have a growing suspicion that the reason that we have not been able to identify the house is that it was not actually built. In other words, Girtin may have been employed not by the owner of the house but its designer, and his task may have been to imagine how the building might look in its setting, both from close to and from a distance as part of the landscape. If this was the case, Girtin would have worked from a set of elevations prepared in the architect’s office, adding the garden and landscape settings either from his imagination or from another secondary source. Stylistic features such as the use of pen and ink to outline details, together with the very modest landscape (which to my eye lacks the artist’s customary sense of unity), rather than indicating an earlier date, therefore make more sense as the outcome of the hack task of the architectural perspectivist. Girtin, like the great master of the art, Joseph Michael Gandy (1771–1843), was more than capable of bringing to his views ‘an acute naturalistic observation’ of light and weather that Morris stresses is a feature of these works, but this is arguably not enough to obscure the fact that Girtin’s commission in this case did not fully engage his sympathies (Morris, 1985, p.42).

1798 - 1799

An Unidentified House in an Open Landscape


(?) 1800

The South Front of Chalfont Lodge, Seen from across the Lawn


by Greg Smith

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