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Works Thomas Girtin

Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), Looking towards Cadair Idris

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1334: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), Looking towards Cadair Idris, 1798–99, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper, 28.5 × 45.5 cm, 11 ¼ × 17 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake), Looking towards Cadair Idris
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper
28.5 × 45.5 cm, 11 ¼ × 17 ¾ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; North Wales

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
413 as 'Bala Lake, Merionethshire'; '1800–1'
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Charles Robert Leslie (1794–1859); his posthumous sale, Foster's, 27 April 1860, lot 406 as 'Bala Lake, North Wales, with the Mountains Arran, Mowddy, Cader Idris, &c.'; bought by Sir Bradford Leslie (1831–1926) (lent to London, 1875); then by descent to Lydia Spence; Sotheby's, 27 June 1968, lot 52; bought by the Wren Gallery, London, £450; Edwin P. Rome; Sotheby's, 10 March 1988, lot 62, £7,480; Sotheby’s, 11 July 1991, lot 173, unsold; Christie's, 7 April 1992, lot 105, unsold; Abbott and Holder, London, 1993

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.35; Bucknell, 1990, p.22


Leslie, 1855, p.266, with an engraving; Binyon, 1900, p.19; Kauffmann, 1984, p.20, p.103; Lyles, 1984, p.5

About this Work

'A View of Snowdon'

This watercolour showing Llyn Tegid (Bala Lake) was presumably painted from a sketch that Girtin took on the return part of his trip to North Wales in 1798, though the drawing has not been traced. The view, looking west across the lake with Cadair Idris in the distance, has faded badly so that the sky has almost completely disappeared and the greens of the fields and hillside, together with their reflections, have become dull and lifeless. Some of the attractive patterns seen in the fields and in the water remain, however, and in general this view of an area that was described by a contemporary text as ‘beautifully varied, rather than majestic’ is saved by a strong compositional device, which, unusually for Girtin’s Welsh scenes, references the work of an earlier artist, Richard Wilson (1713/14–82) (see figure 1) (Walker, 1792–1802, vol.4, no.95, pl.190). Wilson’s view of Snowdon seen from Llyn Nantlle, or more probably the engraving that was made from it, provided the model for Girtin’s treatment of the reflections in the water as bold diagonals, though Girtin avoided the temptation to bring forward Cadair Idris to provide a similarly dramatic focus.

Cadair Idris, Seen across Lake Bala

John Varley (1778–1842) signed and dated a very similar view of Bala Lake (see figure 2). Although it repeats Girtin’s motifs of the rock in the foreground and the fishing boat on the water, together with the general form of the reflection on the lake’s surface, it brings Cadair Idris much closer to the viewer. Rather than being a copy of Girtin’s watercolour, therefore, it appears to be a variation on his composition, with the central mountain, some thirty kilometres away in reality, considerably enlarged for dramatic effect.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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