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Works Thomas Girtin

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck


Primary Image: TG1693: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck, 1800, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper, 36.1 × 31.9 cm, 14 ¼ × 12 ½ in. Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery (1910P1).

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper
36.1 × 31.9 cm, 14 ¼ × 12 ½ in

‘Girtin. 1800’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
River Scenery; The Village; Yorkshire View

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck (TG1508a)
Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck (TG1694)
Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck (TG1695)
Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck (TG1696)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
392ii as 'Hawes, Yorkshire'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2002


Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880) (lent to London, 1875); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 13 May 1881, lot 95 as 'Old Bridge and Houses'; bought by 'Agnew', £54 12s; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.6076); bought by James Worthington, 30 September 1881, £60 1s 6d; J. Palmer Philips; presented to the Museum, 1910

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.2 as ’Old Bridge and Houses with a Waterfall on the Right’; London, 1934b, no.738; Bucharest, 1935, no.137; Leeds, 1937, no.22; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.79; Salisbury, Rhodesia, 1957, no.232; Worthing, 1960, no.62; Amsterdam, 1965, no.55; Lyons, 1966, no.69; Prague, 1969, no.69; Bourges, 1970, no.57; Manchester, 1975, no.76; Birmingham, 1987, no.14; London, 1992, no.14; London, 1993, no.141; Harewood, 1999, no.36; London, 2002, no.135 as ’Cottages at Hawes, from the River Ure, Yorkshire’


Birmingham, 1930, p.92; Davies, 1938, p.3; Anonymous, 1948, p.161; Mayne, 1949, p.101; Ellis, Honer and Roberts, 1999, pp.144–45

About this Work

This view of the village of Hawes in Wensleydale is taken from Gayle Beck looking upstream, and it is probably the earliest of four versions of what was one of Girtin’s most popular compositions (the others being TG1694, TG1695 and TG1696). The watercolours are all based on a pencil sketch that was probably made on Girtin’s trip to Yorkshire in 1799 (TG1508a), when the artist dated a view of the village of Middleham (TG1508), which would have been on the way to Hawes if he made the journey from his presumed base at Harewood House, the home of his patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814). None of the four watercolours appear to have been commissioned, however, and they were certainly not owned by Lascelles. It seems that each was produced in response to sales on the open market, and only the latest of the versions (TG1696) offered any significant variation on this composition, whilst the other two are effectively replicas with only minor changes in small details to distinguish them. The popularity of the subject presumably meant that Girtin felt no need to change the focus of attention on the old packhorse bridge in the centre, with what appears to be a waterfall joining from the right and emptying into the river. But, as David Hill has shown in his catalogue of Girtin’s northern subjects, the artificial watercourse that fed the village’s mills is shown broken, with water temporarily tumbling back into the beck, and so, given that the original sketch includes this feature, it appears that the watercolours depict an actual event. As Hill has again noted, there were major floods in Yorkshire in 1799 and a number of Girtin’s watercolours from the following year ‘recorded the damage being repaired’, including Harewood Bridge (TG1551) and Wetherby Bridge and Mills (TG1642). The views of Hawes likewise show the effects of what must have been a harmful incident for the village’s economy (Hill, 1999, p.42).

Such an occurrence, however topical, is unlikely to account, on its own, for the success of Girtin’s composition, even though it added interest to a fairly standard picturesque mix of water, vernacular buildings and bridge. Judging the work’s attractiveness as a commodity is made considerably more difficult by the fact that the watercolour has faded badly, so that although at least the clouds have retained some of their dramatic greys, the blue from the sky has disappeared, together with some of the sky’s reflections in the water, and the greens of the vegetation have also been compromised. Enough remains to show that a broken sky has highlighted selected passages to fine effect, however, and one cannot help but wonder whether there might have been something else in the original appearance of the watercolour and the equally (if not more) faded subsequent versions that once evoked a powerful set of associations perhaps equivalent to the note of transient hope seen in Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea, the so-called White House at Chelsea (TG1740). Perhaps the development in the composition from sketch to watercolour, to include large areas of sky and water, provided the opportunity for the artist to create an evanescent effect that attracted sales but that we can only guess at today, when the solid realm of stone predominates.

1800 - 1801

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck


1800 - 1801

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck



Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck


1799 - 1800

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck



Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond



Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck


1800 - 1801

Harewood Bridge


(?) 1800

Wetherby Bridge and Mills, Looking across the Weir



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


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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