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Works Thomas Girtin after Unknown Artist

Dovedale

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1751: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after an Unknown Artist, Dovedale, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on paper, 31.7 × 46.3 cm, 12 ½ × 18 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Unknown Artist
Title
  • Dovedale
Date
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
31.7 × 46.3 cm, 12 ½ × 18 ¼ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Derbyshire View; Hills and Mountains; River Scenery

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1751
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2015

Provenance

Miss Spence; her sale, Christie's, 19 March 1887, lot 38 as 'Dovedale, Derbyshire, 1800'; bought by 'Agnew', £9 9s; Thos. Agnew & Sons; Mr Harmer; then by descent to Mrs Lewis Huth Walters (by 1930); then by descent; Christie's, 7 July 2015, lot 96; Christie's, South Kensington, 9 December 2015, lot 223, £6,875

About this Work

This very faded watercolour appeared at auction in 2015 having not been seen in public for over a century. It was suggested in the sale catalogue that the view of Dovedale in Derbyshire in the Peak District resulted from a visit by Girtin to the romantic landscape of the region, probably in 1799 or 1800. However, although it is perfectly possible that the artist took a detour either on the way to or returning from one of his visits to Yorkshire and the north east in those years, there is no other evidence, in the form of sketches or indeed other views of the Peak District, to suggest that he travelled to the area, and it is likely that the watercolour was executed after a sketch by another artist. When the work was sold in 1887, it was noted that it was dated 1800. However, though its poor condition makes that difficult to confirm, and the inscription (presumably on an old mount) also seems to have been lost, a relatively late date is still possible, and this, in turn, does not invalidate the suggestion that the view was copied from another artist. Many of Girtin’s views of the Lake District, another area well known for its dramatic scenery but that the artist did not visit, were copied from sketches by the amateur artist Sir George Howland Beaumont, 7th Baronet (1753–1827) (such as TG1582), and they also date from about the same time. That said, the most obvious source for Girtin’s watercolour – a sketch by his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), who made some of the Peak District’s most spectacular scenery the subject of a number of watercolours (see figure 1) – can be discounted. Dayes’ ecstatic description of the sublime scenery of Dovedale, found in his posthumously published Excursion through the Principal Parts of Derbyshire and Yorkshire, was undertaken in the autumn of 1803 – that is, after Girtin’s death (Dayes, Works).

Dovedale, Derbyshire

If the work is not after Dayes, then the later date does not preclude the possibility that Girtin’s source dates from earlier and specifically that he encountered the subject during the period of his employment copying drawings for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). This possibility is strengthened by the existence of an early view of Ilam Rock, Dovedale, apparently signed by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) (see figure 2), which similarly appears to be a copy. This, in turn, was copied by the amateur artist John Henderson (1764–1843), who inscribed his version ‘From a sketch by Turner belonging to T. Monro’ (Rhode Island School of Design, Providence (2016.80.133)). And so, although it has been suggested that Turner’s view was made on his tour of the Midlands in 1794, the Monro provenance suggests that he too based his work on a sketch by another artist, and there is even a possibility that Girtin collaborated in its production, being responsible for the pencil work.1 However, although there are no obvious candidates for either artist’s source amongst the thousands of drawings sold posthumously from Monro’s collection, on balance, Girtin’s watercolour appears to be a late offshoot of the Monro School.

A different view of Dovedale has also been attributed to Girtin in the past (see figure 3), though it did not appear in Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak’s catalogue (Girtin and Loshak, 1954). The watercolour shows llam Rock from further down the valley. The only feature reminiscent of Girtin’s work is the way that the rocks in the river form into diagonal lines, much as they do in Stepping Stones on the River Wharfe (TG1685), and it was this that presumably suggested the rather speculative attribution.

 

1799 - 1800

Borrowdale

TG1582

1800 - 1801

Stepping Stones on the River Wharfe, near Bolton Abbey

TG1685

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 The drawing was attributed to both artists when it recently appeared at auction (Exhibitions: Christie's, 5 July 2022).

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