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Works Thomas Girtin


(?) 1797

Primary Image: TG1442: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Boat-Building, (?) 1797, graphite on wove paper, 13.6 × 21.5 cm, 5 ⅜ × 8 ½ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1202).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Boat-Building
(?) 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
13.6 × 21.5 cm, 5 ⅜ × 8 ½ in

‘3.6’ on the back

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Docks and Canals

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
332 as 'c. 1799'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Dr John Percy (1817–89); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 17 April 1890, lot 505 (one of 9); bought by 'Vokins', £2 2s; J & W Vokins; John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929); his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 29 May 1935, lot 313; volume bought by Bernard Squire, £32; G. T. Smith; his sale, Sotheby’s, 24 January 1951, lot 95 as 'Boat Building, with figures and a background of trees'; bought by 'Milling', £4; Tom Girtin (1913–94); bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.73

About this Work

This rapid sketch of the earliest stages in the building of a boat, with the curved timbers of the keel laid on the stocks, is an unusual subject for Girtin, though familiar enough from the work of John Constable (1776–1837). The only other depictions of boat-building by Girtin, aside from small views within larger coastal and river scenes, date from his time working with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (TG0818 and TG0832b), but this sketch is presumably later in date and was clearly made at some speed on the spot. It was dated by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak to around 1799, but, with no topographical information to guide us, we must concede that it could have been sketched at any time during the last five years of Girtin’s life (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.179). However, in what is admittedly no more than a hunch, I suspect that it might have been produced on his 1797 tour of the West Country. There is, I suggest, a passing resemblance to the equally sketchy view of Sharpham House (TG1273), and the drawing came from the same album of pencil drawings, collected by John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929), that contained at least four other West Country subjects, including other shipping scenes at Bristol (TG1286 and TG1287). Sketches such as this were presumably not made with a studio watercolour in mind, but they might have been useful adjuncts for topographical views such as Shaldon (TG1263) and Plymouth (TG1753), both West Country scenes with boats under construction on the stocks.

1795 - 1796

A Ship Drawn Up on a Beach Being Careened


1795 - 1796

A Boat-Builder’s Yard, Possibly on the River Medway


(?) 1797

Sharpham House on the River Dart


(?) 1797

Bristol: St Mary Redcliffe, from the Harbour


(?) 1797

Bristol Harbour and St Mary Redcliffe


1797 - 1798

Shaldon, Seen from Teignmouth





by Greg Smith

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