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Works Thomas Girtin



Primary Image: TG0187: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Harrow-on-the-Hill, 1794, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 10.5 × 14.9 cm, 4 ⅛ × 5 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.854).

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

Print after: T. Brandard (unknown dates), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), etching and engraving, 'Harrow on the Hill' for Daniel Lysons, Environs of London: Vol.2, County of Middlesex, 19 September 1797, 13 × 17 cm, 5 ⅛ × 6 ¹¹⁄₁₆ in. London Metropolitan Archives (k1248624).

Photo courtesy of London Metropolitan Archives (City of London) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Harrow-on-the-Hill
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount
10.5 × 14.9 cm, 4 ⅛ × 5 ⅞ in
Mount Dimensions
14 × 19.1 cm, 5 ½ × 7 ½ in

‘T. Girtin 1794’ lower left in pen and ink, by Thomas Girtin; ‘Harrow on the Hill - by Girtin’ on the back, in another hand

Object Type
Drawing for a Print
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; London and Environs; The Village

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Sotheby’s, 7 November 1910, lot 134; bought by 'Palser', £10; J. Palser & Sons (stock no.16888); bought by Dr King, 12 November 1910; 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

Agnew’s, 1953a, no.46; Sheffield, 1953, no.41; London, 1962a, no.118; New Haven, 1986a, no.19


Davies, 1924, pl.2; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.55

About this Work

This small view of Harrow village, located ten miles north west of the centre of London, shows the twelfth-century tower of St Mary’s Church surmounted by its distinctive octagonal lead spire. The view is taken from the village green, where a group of locals have stopped to talk and from where the free-standing gantry sign for the King’s Head Inn appears like a gallows, though ironically it actually frames a view of Harrow School. The watercolour was used as the basis for an engraving that was published in 1797 to accompany the second volume of Daniel Lysons’ The Environs of London, which describes at great length, and with much turgid detail, the history of the village (Lysons, 1792–96). The print does not acknowledge Girtin’s authorship of the drawing, however, and neither does the text make any reference to the village green or the gantry sign, and I suspect that the watercolour was not actually commissioned by Lysons. A more likely scenario is that the work was bought by the engraver or perhaps lent by its owner for the purpose of engraving; this would explain the gap between the date of the work’s completion in 1794 and its publication in 1797. Lysons was a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and it may be that Girtin’s earliest patron, the antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), acted as an intermediary between artist and engraver. Indeed, although Harrow is close enough to London for Girtin to have easily made the trip, there is every chance that, as in numerous other instances, he executed his watercolour from an untraced sketch by Moore.

The fact that this watercolour is dated ‘1794’ by Girtin gave it great significance to the first cataloguers of the artist’s work, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, who split up his career into a series of periods on the grounds of what they perceived to be a linear development in his style. This work, they argued, predated Girtin’s first sketching tour, made in the company of Moore to the Midlands in the summer of 1794. The views of Lichfield Cathedral and Peterborough Cathedral that resulted (TG1002 and TG1018) marked a new phase in the artist’s career, they suggested, leaving behind those works that depended on the compositions of Moore and Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). Harrow-on-the-Hill, they continued, was a transitional work that though it still retains many Dayesian features – ‘pencil outlines, the grey underpainting, the flaky linear, sky, the delicate colours … and the drawing of the foliage’, as well as ‘an obvious repoussoir’ – was ‘obviously a labour of love’, displaying ‘an ingenious charm’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.55). The authors characteristically ignored the relationship between Girtin and the print trade, and they did not consider the possibility that far from the drawing being based on Girtin’s own study from nature, the lack of an acknowledgement to Girtin on the print might suggest that the drawing was based on an untraced secondary source.


The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral



The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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