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Works Thomas Girtin

Newcastle upon Tyne

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1082: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Newcastle upon Tyne, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 20.2 × 28 cm, 8 × 11 in. National Galleries of Scotland (D 5023.21).

Photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Newcastle upon Tyne
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
20.2 × 28 cm, 8 × 11 in

‘Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Durham and Northumberland; River Scenery

Newcastle-upon-Tyne (TG1080)
Newcastle-upon-Tyne (TG1081)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
160iii as 'Newcastle upon Tyne'; '1796–7'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and June 2018


Possibly bought by Peter Bluett (1767–1843) of Holcombe Court, Devon; then by descent to Peter Frederick Bluett (1806–84); Holcombe Court bought by the Revd William Rayer (1786–1866), 1858; his collection by descent to Revd George Morganig William Thomas Jenkins (1879–1952); acquired by Gooden & Fox Ltd.; bought from them by the Fine Art Society, London, 1936; bought by Sir Thomas Barlow (1845–1945), 1937; then by descent to Helen Alice Dorothy Barlow (1887–1975); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1976

Exhibition History

Fine Art Society, 1937, no.19; Edinburgh, 1979, no.24


Mayne, 1949, p.45; Baker, 2011, p.129

About this Work

This is the larger and later of two watercolours showing a panoramic view of Newcastle upon Tyne (the other being TG1081) that were produced from an on-the-spot colour sketch (TG1080) dating from Girtin’s first independent tour, to the northern counties and the Scottish Borders in 1796. Immediately after the trip, the earlier view was produced for reproduction as an engraving that was published in July 1797 (see print after TG1081), but this watercolour, which again follows the source drawing closely, was made two or three years later, and in quite different circumstances. Thus, although the work is much bigger, it actually contains much less detail as the artist had been released from the responsibility of providing the engraver with a carefully mapped-out representation of the city’s architectural monuments and its industrial and commercial activities. Instead, Girtin was free to represent the city seen from an eminence on the north bank of the river Tyne under the influence of a hazy summer sunshine, which dissolves the carefully delineated forms seen in the earlier version, and he capped it all with an immense sky, which perversely is all but featureless. Just as idiosyncratic is the prominent signature in the foreground; almost as large as the reclining figure immediately above, it boldly proclaims that this is Girtin’s vision of the city, rather than a view dictated by a publisher with a text in need of illustration. As if to underline the point, the artist replicated the detail of the unfinished steeple of the church of All Saints, as shown in the on-the-spot sketch, and ignored the print, which depicts the tower in its finished state (see print after TG1081).

The changes between the two versions of Newcastle upon Tyne can be related to a more general shift from Girtin’s dependence on commissions, either from patrons or the print trade, to his embracing of the open market. The second Newcastle composition is one of ten watercolours by Girtin’s watercolours that were discovered by Paul Oppé (1878–1957) in Holcombe Court in Devon. The owner of Holcombe during Girtin’s life was Peter Bluett (1767–1863), and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) made the not unreasonable assumption that he was the first owner of these views (Girtin Archive.26). It may be, therefore, that he was one of the first of a new generation of collectors (as distinct from patrons) of the artist’s work. The watercolours he owned thus follow no particular pattern, ranging in date, size and degree of finish, and the subjects are likewise a heterogeneous mix of antiquarian, genre and modern scenes, though there are no fewer than three copies of Italian prints amongst them. Certainly, none of the works were commissioned from the artist for their subject matter, and it appears that they were all bought independently as examples of the artist’s later style. Bluett owned another Newcastle scene, but this is a view of a cottage with no connection to the city (TG1704), and there is no reason to suspect that he acquired this work for any reason other than as a Girtin townscape bathed in sun, in which case the prominent signature in the foreground counted for as much as the subject.

1796 - 1797



(?) 1796



1796 - 1797



1796 - 1797




A Farmhouse, Said to Be near Newcastle-upon-Tyne


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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