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Works Thomas Girtin

Farmhouse and Outbuildings, Possibly in Essex


Primary Image: TG1759: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Farmhouse and Outbuildings, Possibly in Essex, 1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 30 × 50.1 cm, 11 ¾ × 19 ¾ in. Aberdeen Art Gallery (ABDAG002442).

Photo courtesy of Aberdeen City Council (Archives, Gallery & Museums) (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: Unknown Artist, after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), aquatint, hand-coloured, Farmhouse and Outbuildings, 17.8 × 25.4 cm, 7 × 10 in. The Moser Gallery at Shrewsbury School.

Photo courtesy of Moser Gallery at Shrewsbury School (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Farmhouse and Outbuildings, Possibly in Essex
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
30 × 50.1 cm, 11 ¾ × 19 ¾ in

‘Girtin 1800’, lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular; Essex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Exhibition Catalogue


Alfred Geoffrey Turner (1886–1956); his posthumous sale, Hungerford Park, 12–14 June 1956, unknown lot; bought by Spink & Son Ltd, London; bought from them, 1956, £472 10s

Exhibition History

Aberdeen, 1991, no.8


Irwin, 1991, p.4

About this Work

This fine signed and dated watercolour of an unidentified farmhouse appeared on the art market after the publication by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak of their catalogue of Girtin’s watercolours, and it has consequently not featured extensively in the literature on the artist (Girtin and Loshak, 1954). This is a pity, because although it has faded somewhat, losing the sky in particular, the artist took some trouble with the figures, adding a series of charming vignettes that are more substantial than his standard accompaniments to picturesque sets of buildings. This is hardly a case of a close, empathetic engagement with rural life, as is sometimes seen in the works of George Morland (1763–1804), which Girtin was said to have admired greatly (see print after TG0875). However, in details such as the man vaulting the gate, the upturned wheelbarrow and the tired horse trudging towards its stable, we are at least encouraged to flesh out a narrative to link with the buildings themselves.

The view of the complex of farm building is one of only a handful of later watercolours by Girtin that revisit the sort of overtly picturesque subjects that the artist more often explored around 1798–99 (for example TG1429). Indeed, although the view has not been identified, the form of the vernacular buildings and their use of varied materials in their construction resemble the Essex farm scenes produced for the artist’s father-in-law, Phineas Borrett (1756–1843), such as Pinkney’s Farm, Wimbish (TG1413). This watercolour was produced on a larger scale, however, and, rather than being a commission, it appears to have been painted by Girtin for Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. Thus, the work conforms to the larger standard size that the artist supplied to Reynolds, and it is dated 1800, the first year of their commercial arrangement. The fact that the watercolour is dated is particularly telling, since prior to 1800 only a handful of Girtin’s works are inscribed with the date of their production, whilst this number rose to over thirty in that year and twenty in the following. It seems that the change in the artist’s practice was governed by the need to prove to the market that his agent was not hawking old, unsold stock. A greater interest in the figures would make sense in this context too, as idiosyncratic touches such as the vaulting figure might have caught the eye of a prospective purchaser in a way that was not required in a work painted to a commission, where the subject was everything.

Another smaller version of the composition was catalogued by Girtin and Loshak as ‘218. Farmhouse and Outbuildings’ by Girtin (see figure 1) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.163). However, sometime after the appearance of the signed and dated watercolour now at Aberdeen, Tom Girtin (1913–94) annotated a photograph of the smaller version, stating that it was a ‘copy’ (Girtin Archive, 12/6). The work is known only from an online image, but it does indeed appear to be an inferior version, at the very least, and it may well be a copy by an amateur artist, perhaps working from an anonymous aquatint of the composition (see the print after, above). Yet another copy, this time measuring 30.5 × 50.8 cm (12 × 20 in), appeared on the art market around 1970, attributed to Robert Dixon (1780–1815) (see figure 2). This is actually the same size as Girtin’s watercolour, and, given that the date and scale of the autograph version conform to the larger of the two standard works supplied by Girtin to Reynolds, I wonder whether this work might not be another of his copies, rather than having been painted by Dixon, who otherwise has no known connection with either the artist or any of his patrons.

Reynolds may also have been the anonymous author of an aquatint with hand colouring that was made after Girtin’s watercolour (see print after TG1759). The hand-coloured aquatint is smaller than its model and given that all of the impressions that I have seen also lack any information about its publication and do not mention Girtin as the author of te original composition it is not surprisingly often listed in sales catalogues as a watercolour and attributed to other artists including George Morland (1763–1804).

1798 - 1799

The Earth Stopper


1798 - 1799

A Farmhouse in a Woodland Setting, Said to Be in Devon


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter



Farmhouse and Outbuildings, Possibly in Essex


by Greg Smith

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