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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

Horses and a Cart in a Field, Overlooking a Ruined Church

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1541: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Horses and a Cart in a Field, Overlooking a Ruined Church, 1799–1800, graphite on wove paper, 10.2 × 17.8 cm, 4 × 7 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Keys Fine Art Auctioneers (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Horses and a Cart in a Field, Overlooking a Ruined Church
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
10.2 × 17.8 cm, 4 × 7 in

‘T Girtin’ on the mount; '7' top right

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Online Auction Catalogue


John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929); his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 29 May 1935, lot 313; volume bought by Bernard Squire, £32; ... Sotheby’s, 10 July 1986, lot 6, unsold; Sotheby’s, 26 January 1987, lot 6, £220; Keys Fine Art Auctioneers, Aylsham, online auction, 17 February 2019, lot 15 as 'Horses in a Landscape ... Attributed to' Thomas Girtin

Exhibition History

Squire Gallery, 1935, no.39

About this Work

This sketch appeared on the art market in 2019 as ‘Attributed to Thomas Girtin’. Though the work is very slight and its poor condition clouds the issue, it is plausible that it was made by the artist around 1799. It has not been possible to identify the distant ecclesiastical ruins, but it is conceivable that they were sketched somewhere in Yorkshire, the county richest in monastic remains that Girtin visited, and this is supported by the fact that the paper on which it is drawn tallies in size and type with works such as The Ruins of Spofforth Castle, near Harewood (TG1538), part of a significant group of sketches that came from a sketchbook that the artist appears to have used on his trip to the county in 1799. The sketch is no more than a quickly executed memorandum of little aesthetic interest, but there are a couple of areas where the artist has added a few accents with a soft piece of graphite, including the horse in the centre and the cart and horse in the foreground to the right, which suggests a little more care and allows one to detect something of Girtin’s skills as a draughtsman. Moreover, the fact that the drawing came from the collection of John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929), who owned as many as twenty authentic pencil sketches by Girtin, suggests that however slight it may be, this work too is by him. 

Study of a Donkey

Much the same can be said about a study of a donkey that came from the collection of Tom Girtin (1913–94) and that he bequeathed to The Whitworth, Manchester (see figure 1). The animal, which is shown in an almost mirror view to the horse in the centre of the landscape drawing, likewise has just enough about it to suggest that an attribution to Girtin is a possibility, though it is unlikely to have ever been associated with the artist were it not for the family provenance. There is no evidence to suggest that the work was owned by Tom Girtin’s predecessors, however, and there is no record that the artist’s ancestor himself thought that the attribution was any more than a speculative one.

1799 - 1800

The Ruins of Spofforth Castle, near Harewood


by Greg Smith

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