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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1549: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on an original washline mount, 31.7 × 52.5 cm, 12 ½ × 20 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1948,1009.5).

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

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on an original washline mount
31.7 × 52.5 cm, 12 ½ × 20 ⅝ in

'River Scene T. Girtin' on the back

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
River Scenery; Yorkshire View

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough (TG1550)
Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough(TG1589)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


William Watson Pattinson (1813–94), 1875; ... Percival Chater Manuk (1873–1946) and Gertrude Mary Coles (1884-1946); bequeathed to the Museum through the National Art-Collections Fund (The Art Fund), 1948


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.186 as 'An early copy'; British Museum, Collection as 'River Scene' (Accessed 18/09/2022)

About this Work

Although this view of a stretch of the river Nidd near Knaresborough is currently attributed to Girtin, the authors of the first catalogue of the artist’s watercolours, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, described it as ‘An early copy’ of the very fine watercolour now in the collection of the Toledo Museum of Art (TG1550) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.186). On its own, the work may pass for a less than inspiring second version of one of Girtin’s compositions, but Girtin and Loshak saw the excellent signed and dated watercolour before it left the UK and I am increasingly inclined to agree with their assessment that this drawing is, in contrast, no more than a good contemporary copy by another artist. Even making allowances for the fact that the work’s impact may have been compromised by its slightly faded and discoloured condition, details such as the poor perspective in the road leading to the river to the right, the overworked foreground with a ridiculous four-square cow, and, above all, the dull sky and formulaic trees, which fall far short of the vibrant effect seen in the Toledo watercolour, all suggest that this is a copy by another hand. The fact that the copyist used a similar palette to Girtin’s and worked on a piece of laid paper of the same type and dimensions that he commonly employed indicates someone who knew the artist’s work well and, just as importantly, had access to the original version. Given that the Toledo version of Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough (TG1550) was owned by Edward Lascelles (1764–1814), this would rule out Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough (1772–1837), who has been suggested as the copyist, but it would still leave Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who was responsible for a significant number of copies of Girtin watercolours that went through his hands around 1800 in his role as the artist’s representative, acting somewhere between agent and dealer. The evidence is not overwhelming, but my suspicion is that the best explanation for both this work’s similarities with the Toledo version and its comparative weaknesses is that it is a copy of a work that was sold by Reynolds to Lascelles, and that it was the former who was responsible for producing the replica.

This work, long known as ‘River Scene’ and titled ‘Unidentified Yorkshire Village’ by Girtin and Loshak, has recently been identified as showing a view on the river Nidd following the discovery of a sketch inscribed ‘Knaresborough’ which forms the basis for this and the other version of the composition (TG1550). This in turn opens up the intriguing possibility that a view titled ‘Knaresborough’ (TG1671) that has neither been illustrated or recorded since its sale in 1912 is actually the same work. Given that TG1671 was noted as having the same measurements there is therefore a chance that TG1549 and TG1671 are one and the same and that the two entries should therefore be merged. In which case, this watercolour should be recorded as having been exhibited at the 1875 centenary exhibition of Girtin’s works, lent from the collection of Richard Johnson (London, 1875, no.134).1




Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough



Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough



Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough


(?) 1800



by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The discovery that TG1549 was in the collection of William Watson Pattinson (1813–94) in 1875 might contradict this. An article on Pattinson's collection refers to ‘a fine work here by Girtin, “Near Knaresborough … It gives a river, with cows on the banks; one cow is in the water’ (The Athenaeum, no.2503, 16 October 1875, p.516).

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