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

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1525: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea, 1799–1800, graphite on wove paper, 11.4 × 18.4 cm, 4 ½ × 7 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hollow (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
11.4 × 18.4 cm, 4 ½ × 7 ¼ in

‘Battersea Reach’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
London and Environs; River Scenery; The River Thames; Wind and Water Mills

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (TG1601)
Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (The White House, Chelsea) (TG1740)
Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (TG1741)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2015


Richard Ivor; ... Adrian Spong as 'Attributed to' Thomas Girtin; bought from him, May 2015

About this Work

This simple pencil sketch was used as the basis for Girtin’s iconic image, Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (TG1740), the so-called White House at Chelsea. Another version of the drawing, identical in every respect apart from its larger dimensions, is to be found on page eleven of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1601). That drawing is on paper with a watermark of 1801, so it could not have been the source for the watercolour that is dated 1800. It seems, therefore, that the version in the Book of Drawings was copied from this smaller on-the-spot sketch, which, in turn was detached from a sketchbook used by Girtin around 1799–1800. Other Yorkshire views, such as Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck (TG1508a), share its dimensions, whilst a view of Middleham dated 1799 (TG1508), again from the same source, was also replicated in the same fashion (TG1620). The source of the drawing, in a book of on-the-spot sketches, is confirmed by the stitching holes seen to the right, which match those in the drawing of cottages at Hawes, and by the fact that a small part of the composition to the right, visible in the copy but absent here, presumably strayed onto the facing page and was lost when it was removed from the book.1 I suspect that Girtin, having found a buyer for his sketch, detached it from his book and made a copy for his own reference on a sheet of paper that was at some point bound in with others to form the hybrid Book of Drawings now in the collection of The Whitworth, Manchester (TG1323–24 and TG1600–25). 

A View from Millbank

The majority of the sheets associated with the 1799–1800 assemblage of drawings represent subjects sketched on the artist’s trip to Yorkshire, but other sketches on paper of the same dimensions exist, suggesting that it was in use over a longer period. Girtin unfortunately almost never dated his sketches and his inscriptions are not always to be trusted either; in this case, the drawing shows Chelsea Reach, not ‘Battersea Reach’ as Girtin incorrectly notes at the bottom of the sheet. In keeping with the other sketches, it does not include any indication of the weather or light effects under which he viewed the subject, and it is clear that, although the watercolour follows the sketch very closely, every element that makes it such an outstanding work was invented in the studio. However, a spot of blue that has strayed onto the right edge of the drawing suggests that the artist had it close by as he worked up the watercolour. Something of the way in which the artist transformed the essentially banal subject can be appreciated by comparing the sketch with a drawing by Francis Towne (1739–1816), A View from Millbank (see figure 1), which was taken from almost exactly the same spot on the north bank of the Thames, a few hundred metres upriver from the location of Tate Britain, where the watercolour itself is to be found. Towne’s view is by no means conventional, but it nonetheless includes a careful framing device of trees and the far bank of the river is shown at an angle, which creates a suitable recession into the composition. All of this offers a telling contrast to Girtin’s stark if not austere sketch, where the subject is compressed into a negligible band and everything is left to the artist’s mastery of effects.


Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (The White House, Chelsea)


(?) 1801

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea


1799 - 1800

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck



Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond


(?) 1801

Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The nicks in the edge of the paper where the sheets were stitched in occur at the same points roughly 1 cm, 3.5 cm, 7.5 cm and 9.4 cm from the top, though on opposite sides as the Hawes sketch was made on the right of the double spread.

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.