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Works Thomas Girtin

Farm Buildings, Probably in Surrey

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1432: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Farm Buildings, Probably in Surrey, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 33.3 × 46 cm, 13 ⅛ × 18 ⅛ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1887.3).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Farm Buildings, Probably in Surrey
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
33.3 × 46 cm, 13 ⅛ × 18 ⅛ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular; Surrey View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
277 as '"Surrey Farm Buildings"'; '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and February 2020


Miss James; her sale, Christie's, 22 June 1891, lot 105 as 'A Landscape, with cottage and shed' by Henry Edridge; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £27 6s; bought from them by the Gallery, 1891

Exhibition History

Washington, 1962c, no.45; Amsterdam, 1965, no.54; London, 1967, no.30; Brussels, 1973, no.46; Manchester, 1975, no.44, Manchester, 1993, no.119; Oslo, 1995, no.68; London, 2002, no.140


Nugent, 2003, p.131

About this Work

This view of farm buildings was identified as being by Girtin’s older contemporary Henry Edridge (1768–1821) until 1950, when Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) proposed the change in the attribution (Girtin Archive, 27). The surprise is that the work was not associated with Girtin earlier, as it is clearly related to a series of picturesque views of vernacular buildings that the artist made around 1798–99. Although the work has faded and lost much of its green tonality, the effect is still comparable to that of An Overshot Mill (TG1427), which, like A Cottage amongst Trees (TG1430), similarly shows vernacular buildings deeply embowered in foliage. As with those views, which may show buildings in Devon and Essex respectively, Girtin seems to have worked from an actual location in this case too. The unconventional composition, the less overtly picturesque appearance of the farmhouse and the curious form of the lean-to at the left all suggest that the watercolour was originally studied by Girtin on his travels, rather than being composed in the studio from a set of conventional parts. Indeed, although there is no surviving inscription to confirm the work’s traditional title, ‘Surrey Farm Buildings’, there is a good chance that it was worked from a sketch made in that county. Vernacular buildings rarely survive sufficiently unaltered as to be identifiable today, but in this case there is at least some evidence to suggest that the subject was studied by Girtin on a trip to the home rented by his patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) at Fetcham in Surrey. Monro lent a work by Girtin titled ‘Cottage Scene in the vicinity of Leatherhead’ to an exhibition in 1823, and his posthumous sale contained ‘A view at Leatherhead’ (Exhibitions: London, 1823, no.9; Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lot 87). Monro certainly commissioned at least two views of churches in the vicinity of Leatherhead – Effingham Church (TG0345) and Capel Church (TG0857) – and, since he is said to have taken Girtin ‘out to one or other of his country houses or elsewhere to sketch for him from Nature’, it is entirely possible that this scene, like Capel Church, was ultimately one of the outcomes of this practice (Story, 1892, vol.1, p.41).

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has described the support used by Girtin as an off-white laid drawing cartridge paper, made by an unknown Dutch manufacturer, worked on the artist’s favoured wireside, where the surface is impressed with the lines of the mould used in its manufacture (Smith, 2002b, p.179; Bower, Report). This is the same paper used for Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills (TG1643), something that might confirm a slightly later date than the 1798 proposed by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.171–72).

1798 - 1799

An Overshot Mill


1798 - 1799

A Cottage amongst Trees


1797 - 1798

Effingham Church


1797 - 1798

Capel Church


(?) 1800

Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills


by Greg Smith

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