For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works (?) Thomas Girtin

Bridgnorth, on the River Severn

(?) 1798

Primary Image: TG0906: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Bridgnorth, on the River Severn, (?) 1798, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.6 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (59.55.600).

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Bridgnorth, on the River Severn
(?) 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.6 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
River Scenery; Shropshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
404 as 'Unidentified River Scene ... may be by Girtin'; 'Perhaps 1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Gilbert Davis (1899–1983); bought from him by the Gallery, 1959


Warrell, 2019, p.20; The Huntington Online as 'River Landscape' (Accessed 14/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of Bridgnorth on the river Severn in Shropshire is closely related to a group of twenty or so small watercolours on card that are now in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain (two others being TG0235 and TG0344). Even though the early provenance of this watercolour cannot be established, its unusually small size, its sketch-like appearance and the nature of its support all suggest that it was one of the sixty ‘Coloured Drawings on Cards’ sold from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), some of which were acquired by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83). However, unlike the bulk of those sketches, which were made after the artist’s pencil outlines and which in turn were copied from drawings either by Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master Edward Dayes (1763–1804), this composition could not have been taken from this secondary source. Moore visited Shropshire in 1791, but the church of St Mary Magdalene, which features prominently in this view, was not completed until 1795.

An alternative scenario is that the composition was sketched by Girtin during the course of his 1798 trip to North Wales and that he subsequently adapted it to the small-scale, sketchy format of the Monro cards. It is reasonably certain that Girtin visited Bridgnorth in that year as it was on that trip that he in all probability made the pencil drawing of the old bridge (TG1357) that formed the basis of one of his last, finest works (TG1755). To take this view, south towards the church, Girtin would only have needed to turn his seat around through 180 degrees. Given that the work can, on stylistic grounds, be roughly dated to 1798, some of the uncertainty about the attribution expressed by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak in their 1954 catalogue would therefore seem to be allayed by Morris’ suggestion (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.189).

Bridgnorth, on the River Severn

However, the attribution of the work remains problematic because of the recognition that Girtin’s contemporary and collaborator at Monro’s house, Turner, also produced a watercolour based on the same composition (see figure 1). It is possible that Turner saw the small watercolour at Monro’s house and that he used the composition for the larger finished watercolour. That would have been very uncharacteristic of Turner’s practice, however, especially as he visited Bridgnorth himself in 1794, but perhaps his commission was to depict the new church and its situation on the river and Girtin’s drawing provided him with up-to-date material that he could use to carry this out. Alternatively, it is also possible that the two watercolours are by the same artist, and, given that there is less of a question about the attribution of the larger work to Turner, that would rule out Girtin. The two artists worked so closely at this time and shared so many stylistic traits that it is not impossible that Turner was the author of this work. However, on balance, I am inclined to the view that, although the bulk of the watercolours on card that Girtin painted for Monro were made after the works of others, a couple at least, including a distant prospect of Tynemouth Priory (TG0850), were made at a later date from his own on-the-spot sketches. As a result, they display a quite different sketch aesthetic, which includes a new emphasis on weather and light effects, as seen here.



1795 - 1796

The Refectory of Walsingham Priory


1795 - 1796

A Distant View of Marlow, from the River Thames


(?) 1798

The Old Severn Bridge at Bridgnorth





1796 - 1797

A Distant View of Tynemouth Priory, from the Sea


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.