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Works Thomas Girtin

Four Studies of a Cart

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1522: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Four Studies of a Cart, 1797–98, graphite on wove paper, 29 × 21.7 cm, 11 ⅜ × 8 ½ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1195).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Four Studies of a Cart
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
29 × 21.7 cm, 11 ⅜ × 8 ½ in

‘Girtin’ on the back, lower right; ‘Royal’ on the back, lower centre

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Miscellaneous Studies

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
283 as 'Studies of a Cart'; 'c. 1798-9'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

Cambridge, 1920, no.52; New Haven, 1986a, no.62 as ’c.1798’


Sparrow, 1902, p.100

About this Work

This set of four studies of the same hay cart, seen from different angles, was presumably taken from life, and at first sight it would appear to be a simple case of Girtin making sketches of a subject that might subsequently find a place in his picturesque rural scenes. An Open Field with a Cart and Horses (TG1523) and the Unidentified Scene, formerly known as 'Kirkstall Village' (TG1639) both feature similar vehicles. No doubt the artist, city born and bred, needed to study at least some of the details of country life and labour if his compositions were, if not to impress with their depth of rural knowledge, as with the works of his contemporary John Constable (1776–1837), then at least not to appear merely conventional. However, there are a number of features that suggest that there is something else going on here too. The manner in which the studies of the carts are carefully placed across the sheet of paper, for instance, combined with the introduction of some shadows and an indication of the ground on which the vehicle stands, is reminiscent of Studies of Goats (TG1518), which Girtin appears to have produced with an eye on the market for prints for amateurs to copy. Indeed, the format of both drawings recalls the prints after the sketches of George Morland (1763–1804) that were published in the mid-1790s by John Harris (c.1740–1811) as a series of ‘Sketch Books’ (see TG1518 figure 1). This was the precursor to the Microcosm of William Henry Pyne (1770–1843), which similarly laid out pages of drawings of various types of carts to help the amateur artist to introduce convincing accessories into their landscape compositions (Myers, 1996, p.234). Girtin’s views of a cart surely include more detail than he could ever need as a professional landscape artist, and they are presented in a way that would have amounted to a considerable waste of labour if all that he needed was an aide memoire. I therefore suspect that they too were made with an eye on the print trade.

The first recorded owner of the drawing was the artist’s son, Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74), though this does not necessarily mean either that he inherited it or that the sketch remained unsold in the studio at his father’s death, as he is known to have bought a number of works later in life. Whether or not the work was sold to a publisher and simply remained unused, it is clear that none of the drawings that can plausibly be identified as having been produced for reproduction for the amateur market were actually engraved, including An Inn Yard, Edgware Road (TG1747), which has the strongest claim to being a demonstration piece.

1798 - 1799

An Open Field with a Cart and Horses, Known as ‘The Carter’



Kirkstall Village


1797 - 1798

Studies of Goats



An Inn Yard, Edgware Road, Paddington


by Greg Smith

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