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Works Thomas Girtin

Barns and a Pond, Said to Be near Bromley

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1418: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Barns and a Pond, Said to Be near Bromley, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), on a mount of laid paper, 20.5 × 32.1 cm, 8 ⅛ × 12 ⅝ in. Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI, anonymous gift (71.153.58).

Photo courtesy of Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Anonymous gift (71.153.58) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Barns and a Pond, Said to Be near Bromley
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), on a mount of laid paper
20.5 × 32.1 cm, 8 ⅛ × 12 ⅝ in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; 'Bromley Church / Kent' on the back, in another hand

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Picturesque Vernacular

Barns and a Pond, Said to Be near Bromley (TG1419)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
275ii as 'View near Bromley'; '1798'


(?) Sotheby’s, 24 March 1820, lot 148 as 'Landscape, with a View of Bromley Church Kent in the distance, Peasant watering his Horse, &c. in colours by GIRTIN, and executed in his best Style'; ... Edward Cohen (1817–86) (lent to London, 1875); J. Palser & Sons; bought by Francis Watkins Keen (c.1864–1933), 21 December 1926; his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 10 November 1933, lot 121 as 'Farm Buildings, with a horseman at a stream near Bromley'; bought by 'Knight', £105; Miss M. G. Newman; Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1963; bought from them by an anonymous collector, £550; presented to the Museum, 1971

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.103 as 'View near Bromley'


Museum Website as 'Bromley Church, Kent' accessed 14/1/2023

About this Work

A Barn

This, the larger of two versions of a picturesque farm scene in open countryside (the other being TG1419) has for much of its history been identified as showing a view near Bromley in Kent on the basis of an inscription on the back of the drawing. The inscription, which identifies the distant building as ‘Bromley Church Kent’, is not in Girtin’s handwriting, however, and the tower seen in the watercolour bears no resemblance to that church’s four-square structure. Moreover, the landscape itself, in the absence of any distinctive topographical features, does not appear like the countryside around Bromley either. I suspect, therefore, that the inscription may have been added later and that it resulted from the fact that the watercolour was copied by one of Girtin’s pupils, Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough (1772–1837) (see figure 1), who lived at Bromley Hill House from 1801, painted views of the area and may even have been the first owner of the work. Putting the old title to one side, the flat landscape is actually closer to the open scenery in Essex that formed the backdrop to many of the picturesque farm views that Girtin painted from around 1799, and the two barns shown here have much in common with the thatched structures seen in A Mill in Essex (TG1416), which has a similarly positioned pond in the foreground. The crucial point is not whether the view is in Kent or Essex, however, as the scene is essentially a picturesque view of vernacular buildings, and a topographically specific title is, I suggest, inappropriate in any case.

Sadly, the work is very faded, to the point where the sky (both the clouds and the main areas of blue) has disappeared completely, and the greens of the vegetation have also been lost, leaving no more than a general tone of sepia to dominate. Indeed, the only evidence that we are not looking at an unfinished monochrome drawing is two patches of blue in the distance, which must have been painted in a more stable pigment. No doubt the watercolour has been exhibited in strong light, and this has facilitated the fading process, but fundamentally it was Girtin’s choice of fugitive pigments used in multiple thin washes that caused the problem. Just two unstable pigments, probably blue indigo and yellow gamboge, if used exclusively for the blues of the sky, the greens of the vegetation and the greys of the clouds, would have been enough to account for much of the drastic deterioration seen here as well as for the impression that the work is unfinished, as the underdrawing in graphite shows up clearly. It may therefore be that Long’s copy provides us with the best evidence of the original appearance of the work. Using stable pigments, her view probably replicates the colours used in the composition, though hardly the spirit of Girtin’s original watercolour.

Another watercolour titled ‘Bromley, Kent’ attributed to Girtin is contained in an album of drawings assembled by John Charles Denham (1777–1867) and now in the collection of the Beinecke Library, Yale University (GEN MSS 831, 81 v).  Denham was a fellow member of the Sketching Society and many of the drawings in the album can be associated with its activities.

1799 - 1800

Barns and a Pond, Said to Be near Bromley


(?) 1799

A Mill in Essex


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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