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Works Thomas Girtin

Bellevue and the Pont de Sèvres, Taken from near the Pont de Saint-Cloud: Pencil Study for Plate Thirteen of Picturesque Views in Paris


Primary Image: TG1881: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Bellevue and the Pont de Sèvres, Taken from near the Pont de Saint-Cloud: Pencil Study for Plate Thirteen of 'Picturesque Views in Paris', 1802, graphite on laid paper, 14.3 × 45.7 cm, 5 ⅝ × 18 in. British Museum, London (1868,0328.355).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Print after: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), TG1881, Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), soft-ground etching, Bellevue and Pont de Sèvres, Taken from near Pont de Saint-Cloud, 2 September 1802, 14.9 × 46.7 cm, 5 ⅞ × 18 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.20221).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Bellevue and the Pont de Sèvres, Taken from near the Pont de Saint-Cloud: Pencil Study for Plate Thirteen of Picturesque Views in Paris
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper
14.3 × 45.7 cm, 5 ⅝ × 18 in

‘View of Bellevue & le Pont de Sêve from the terras terrace near to le Pont de St Cloud’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print; Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Panoramic Format; Paris and Environs; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
473 as 'Belle Vue and Pont de Sèvres from St.-Cloud'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Girtin (1773–1821); bought by John Jackson (d.1828); his posthumous sale, Foster’s, 24 April 1828, lot 321; bought by 'Tiffin'; ... 'Colnaghi'; bought from them by the Museum, 1868


Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.493; Binyon, 1898–1907, no.83

About this Work

This view of Bellevue and the Pont de Sèvres, taken from near the Pont de Saint-Cloud looking south along the river Seine, was drawn on the spot by Girtin early in 1802 in preparation for plate thirteen of his Picturesque Views in Paris (see print after TG1881a). Having completed a series of highly detailed panoramic drawings of the French capital, Girtin engaged the help of the playwright Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809) to ‘take views in the environs of Paris’ on a series of ‘short excursions’ to the sites ‘esteemed the most picturesque’ by contemporary artists (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.488).1 Holcroft’s account of their trips, published in 1804, provides the only direct evidence we have of Girtin’s sketching practice, including, in this case, the fact that unlike in the city views, for which the artist almost certainly employed a camera obscura, here he worked freehand with great ‘dispatch’. Holcroft thus records that ‘From a seat on the north bank of the river, near the bridge of Saint Cloud … a second view was taken, by Girtin, while dinner was preparing’, and, as the sketch indicates, the artist did not make ‘finished’ drawings, doing just enough so that ‘all the objects were in their proper place, and sufficiently made out for him to accurately understand his own intentions’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, pp.493 and 491). Although these works are different in character from the city sketches, the artist continued to use the same support, which, as the paper historian Peter Bower has noted, is a cream laid writing paper made by the Blauw and Briel company in Holland (Smith, 2002b, p.141; Bower, Report). This, he believes, was bought by Girtin in Paris, and may have been made twenty years earlier. 

The inscription on the drawing was presumably dictated by Holcroft, as we know Girtin was ‘Unable to speak the language’. The ‘terrace’ referred to in the inscription on the drawing was that of the gardens of the ‘palace of Saint Cloud’, to which the two visitors were granted access whilst it was being fitted up for the use of the First Consul, Napoleon Bonaparte (1769–1821). As elsewhere on his tour of the environs of Paris, Girtin was disappointed by the formal gardens he encountered, and he was not tempted to take a view of them despite their fame. Holcroft summed up the problem for the artist, noting that ‘whatever art could effect, to disgrace nature, has been studied’; thus ‘cut trees, stone basons, water works … and the whole routine of similar formalities offend the eye, in despite of the foliage, the water, and the beautiful inequalities of the ground’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, pp. 488 and 493). To capture something of those ‘beautiful inequalities’ – and in spite of the inscription, which mistakenly suggests that the view was taken from the ‘terrace’ – Girtin made his drawing from lower down on the riverbank (as noted by Holcroft), from where none of the garden’s formalities are visible, and where he could get a good view of a broad sweep of the river. 

Bellevue and the Pont de Sèvres, Taken from near the Pont de Saint-Cloud: Tracing for Plate Thirteen of 'Picturesque Views in Paris'

Girtin’s soft-ground etching (see the print after, above) was published separately from the finished aquatint, on 2 September 1802. To create this autograph print, the artist first traced his own drawing, reversing the image in the process (see figure 1) and then, using the tracing as a template, impressed the lines onto an etching plate coated in a tacky ground of an acid-resistant mix. Lifting the tracing and taking away the ground where the lines had been pushed in, he would then have immersed the plate in acid, which would have bitten into the unprotected areas. Cleaned up, the plate, with the etched lines now according with the direction of Girtin’s original drawing, could then be used to print from. Such a complex procedure employed by a novice printmaker like Girtin no doubt required a number of proof stages, though none seem to have survived in this case. 


Bellevue and the Pont de Sèvres, Taken from near the Pont de Saint-Cloud: Colour Study for Plate Thirteen of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 Holcroft’s unique eye-witness account of Girtin at work during the excursions they undertook in and around Paris in the early spring of 1802, published in the second volume of Travels from Hamburg, through Westphalia, Holland, and the Netherlands, to Paris, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 1).

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