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Works Thomas Girtin

An Unidentified Windmill, Probably in Lambeth

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1450: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), An Unidentified Windmill, Probably in Lambeth, 1798–99, graphite and watercolour on paper, 31.8 × 25.1 cm, 12 ½ × 9 ⅞ in. Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston (BF.1986.8).

Photo courtesy of Sarah Campbell Blaffer Foundation, Houston (BF.1986.8) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • An Unidentified Windmill, Probably in Lambeth
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
31.8 × 25.1 cm, 12 ½ × 9 ⅞ in
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Wind and Water Mills

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


Andrew Wyld; bought by the Museum from him, 1986

Exhibition History

Andrew Wyld, 1986, no.15 as ’A Windmill - possibly the Smock Mill at Lambeth’


Butlin, 1988, pp.200-1

About this Work

A Mill in Lambeth Marsh Road

This fine on-the-spot colour sketch was previously attributed to Peter De Wint (1784–1849), but the late Andrew Wyld identified the work as being by Girtin and, with a minor proviso, I think he was correct in his judgement (cited by Butlin, 1988, p.200). The only cause for concern stems from the fact that there are no comparable colour sketches of vernacular buildings by Girtin, who generally made his on-the-spot studies from landscape scenes that had been transformed by a particular light or weather effect and that might therefore provide the basis for a successful studio watercolour. That said, this work has so many stylistic features in common with sketches such as A Street in Weymouth (TG1241), including the use of a similar restricted palette, with very fluid washes brushed in with evident dispatch and with an economy of effort, that any doubts are quickly dispelled. I would point, in particular, to the featureless foreground and the way that it gives way, by a series of blotches and accidents, to the more carefully resolved form of the tower. This is typical of Girtin’s habit of concentrating only on the essential parts of the sketch, in this case adding a few accents in two tones of grey to depict the sails and the wooden platform, and in the process resolving the form of the mill, which creates a sense of depth across an otherwise flat expanse of wash.

Mills feature in a number of Girtin’s watercolours, including his most famous image, Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea, popularly known as The White House, Chelsea (TG1740). The structure shown in this sketch, like the Red House Mill in Girtin’s most famous work, is a smock mill – in other words, its polygonal tower is topped with a cap that rotates so that the sails catch the wind. However, as Andrew Wyld also suggested, this mill is more likely to depict the Lambeth Smock Mill, one of the three shown in the distance of Westminster and Lambeth (TG1854), the colour study that Girtin made for section three of his monumental panorama of London (cited in Butlin, 1988, p.200). The mill, which was one of the tallest in London, was also depicted in a watercolour by Hendrik de Cort (1742–1810) that dates from 1804 (see figure 1), and, though Girtin’s sketch seems to have smoothed out some of the building’s angularity, the comparison suggests that the Lambeth mill is the most plausible identity for the subject shown here.

(?) 1797

A Street in Weymouth



Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (The White House, Chelsea)


(?) 1801

Westminster and Lambeth: Colour Study for the ‘Eidometropolis’, Section Three


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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