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Works Thomas Girtin

Flodden Field

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0855: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Flodden Field, 1796–97, watercolour on laid paper, 7.8 × 12.2 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Flodden Field
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper
7.8 × 12.2 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Durham and Northumberland

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Christie’s, 17 May 1884, lot 9, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; 'Parker', £2 5s ... Sotheby’s, 13 July 1995, lot 35 as by Thomas Girtin, £1,725; Sotheby's, 11 July 1996, lot 26, unsold; Sotheby's, 10 April 1997, lot 9, unsold

About this Work

This view of the battlefield of Flodden in Northumberland, close to the Scottish border, is likely to have been amongst the sixty ‘Coloured Drawings on Cards’ sold from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83). A group of the cards was bought by Girtin’s collaborator at Monro’s home, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), and they now form part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain, where the majority of them are attributed to Girtin. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were mainly executed around 1795–96 after a set of Girtin’s outline drawings, which are now also in the Turner Bequest. This example, however, is one of only a handful that seem to have been painted a little later (Wilton, 1984a, p.12), and from sketches that Girtin himself made on the spot (two others being TG0850 and TG0906). Rather than being copied from the drawings of his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), the subject was probably therefore studied at first hand during his trip to the north east and the Scottish Borders in 1796, when Girtin is known to have sketched the nearby Etal Castle (TG1115). As a result, the small watercolour retains the sketch-like character of earlier works such as The Medieval Kitchen, Stanton Harcourt (TG0291), but it adds a new concern with weather effects and with the capacity of light to evoke associations. The result here is an apparently subjectless landscape, with no identifiable landmarks and buildings, that nonetheless through the use of light and two pensive figures hints at something of the significance of the location as the site of the bloody events of 1513. Whether Monro appreciated the shift away from an ostensible antiquarian subject to a landscape of effects and sentiment is not known. But, given that there are so few examples of Girtin’s later style of working that can be shown to come from the Monro collection, the answer was probably not, and Flodden Field did not lead to a new wave of commissions from his patron.

1796 - 1797

A Distant View of Tynemouth Priory, from the Sea


(?) 1798

Bridgnorth, on the River Severn


1796 - 1797

Etal Castle


1795 - 1796

The Medieval Kitchen, Stanton Harcourt


by Greg Smith

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