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Works (?) William Pearson

Berry Pomeroy Castle

1798 - 1803

Primary Image: TG1271: (?) William Pearson (1772–1849), Berry Pomeroy Castle, 1798–1803, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 25.4 × 34.6 cm, 10 × 13 ⅝ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1189).

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

(?) William Pearson (1772-1849)
  • Berry Pomeroy Castle
1798 - 1803
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
25.4 × 34.6 cm, 10 × 13 ⅝ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Berry Pomeroy Castle (TG1269)
Berry Pomeroy Castle (TG1270)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
242i as by Thomas Girtin; '1797-8'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911) (lent to London, 1875); by a settlement to his sister, Julia Hog Cooper (née Girtin) (1839–1904); her sale,  Davis, Castleton, Sherborne, 2 December 1884, lot 52; bought by 'Pallant'; H. T. Heaviside (lent to London, 1887); J. Heaviside; Foster's, 3 June 1908, lot 43; bought by 'Vicars', £1 1s; bought by J. Palser & Sons (stock no.16515); bought 18 November 1909 and presented to Sabina Girtin, née Cooper (1878–1959) by friends; Tom Girtin (1913–94); bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.70 as by Thomas Girtin and 'Exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798'; London, 1887, no.611; London, 1962a, no.129; New Haven, 1986a, no.122 as ’A copy, possibly by William Pearson’


Mayne, 1949, p.47; Flett, 1981, pp.142–43; YCBA Online as 'Unknown Artist, after' Thomas Girtin (Accessed 15/09/2022)

About this Work

This badly faded view of Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon was attributed to Girtin by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak in their catalogue of the artist’s watercolours, and they dated it to 1797–98 – that is, to the immediate aftermath of his West Country tour (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.166). They were presumably inclined to overlook the work’s manifest weaknesses because it had been in the ownership of the family since the time of the artist’s son, Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74). However, not all of the watercolours owned by Thomas Calvert came from his father’s studio, and he also purchased works of varying degrees of authenticity on the open market. Therefore, when Susan Morris came to catalogue the watercolour after it entered the collection of Paul Mellon (1907–99), she understandably included it in the section of ‘Drawings Formerly Attributed to Thomas Girtin’ as a ‘copy, possibly by William Pearson’ (Morris, 1986, p.51). The work is clearly not by Girtin, but I am not sure about the second part of Morris’ conclusion, namely that the work was copied from the version of the composition now in a private collection in Norfolk (TG1269). The intriguing thing about this otherwise dull replica is that whilst it does indeed copy elements of the smaller version of the work, including the seated figure and the disposition of the trees to the left, it also duplicates a prominent and unique feature of the recently discovered watercolour that was exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1798 (TG1270) – the form of the dead tree to the right. The point is that there are only a few people who might have had access either to both of Girtin’s watercolours or to the original sketch from which the artist worked his variants of the composition, and Morris’ suggestion of William Pearson (1772–1849) as the author of the copy seems a sensible one. Indeed, the fact that the work has faded in the way it has may mean that the copyist also employed Girtin’s later, and more fugitive, palette.

1798 - 1799

Berry Pomeroy Castle


1797 - 1798

Berry Pomeroy Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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