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Works Thomas Girtin

Pont Seiont, Looking Towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)

(?) 1798

Primary Image: TG1327: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Pont Seiont, Looking Towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain), (?) 1798, watercolour on laid paper, 15 × 23.4 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ¼ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.58).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Pont Seiont, Looking Towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)
(?) 1798
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper
15 × 23.4 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ¼ in
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; North Wales

Pont Seiont, Looking towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain) (TG1328)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
363 as 'Called Beddgelert (probably Cader Idris)'; 'Out-of-door sketch'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855

Exhibition History

Manchester, 1975, no.68 as ’Mountainous Landscape with River and Bridge’; London, 1985, no.80c as ’Landscape with Hill and Cloud’; Cleveland, 1991, no.37 as ’Landscape with Hills and Clouds: Mynydd Mawr’; London, 2002, no.118 as ’Mynnydd Mawr, North Wales’


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.7 as 'Landscape with Hill and Cloud'; Mayne, 1949, p.93; Kriz, 1997, pp.25–26; Chare, 2007, pp.20–22

About this Work

This on-the-spot colour sketch, which until recently went under various inaccurate or vague titles, has been identified as showing Pont Seiont (Seiont Bridge) on the road leading out of Caernarfon on the way to Beddgelert, with Mynydd Mawr (Big or Elephant Mountain) in the distance. Girtin produced a studio watercolour from the sketch that he dated 1799 (TG1328), thereby proving that this on-the-spot sketch was made on the artist’s 1798 trip to North Wales. The studio watercolour was unknown to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, who consequently dated what they thought was an ‘Out-of-door sketch’ of Cadair Idris to 1800 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.183). In other words, this was one of a number of sketches made in Wales, including the view of Denbigh Castle (TG1337), that the authors of the catalogue of Girtin’s watercolours thought were ‘too advanced in style to have been done in 1798’, and that they therefore thought ‘support the hypothesis of a second visit in 1800’ (p.40). This sketch of the view to Mynydd Mawr is consequently of some significance in helping to disprove the frankly fanciful idea of a second Welsh trip. The stylistic, material and subject links between a study that must have been produced in 1798 and the ten or so other on-the-spot colour studies identified here as Welsh views are so significant, I suggest, that it is inconceivable that they were not all produced at the same time, and on what was surely Girtin’s sole tour to the area.

Even though Girtin did not inscribe and date his sketch, as was commonly the case with other artists, the evidence that this watercolour was painted on the spot is compelling. Thus, as with A Mountain View, near Beddgelert (TG1321), it employs a limited range of tones, the foreground and other areas are left unfinished, and again there is evidence of water spillage – one large drop disfigures the sky. Above all, it is the evident dispatch with which Girtin worked that confirms the work’s status as an on-the-spot sketch, and this is particularly the case in the sky, where the clouds were washed in rapidly as the artist sought to capture the effect of a break in the sky illuminating part of the landscape below. It seems that Girtin was encouraged to make a colour sketch, rather than a simple pencil outline, when he encountered a potentially profitable subject either seen in a suitable light or accompanied by an appropriate weather effect. The resulting sketch would then both help in the production of a finished watercolour and provide a useful guide to a prospective client, who would get an idea of what their purchase might look like.

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a buff-grey laid wrapping paper made by an unknown English manufacturer, worked on the artist’s favoured wireside, where the surface is impressed with the lines of the mould used in its manufacture (Smith, 2002b, p.155; Bower, Report). This is the same paper that Girtin used for another Welsh view coloured on the spot, Denbigh Castle (TG1337), as well as the unidentified A View of Hills and a River (TG1336), which may consequently also be identified as showing a scene in North Wales.


Pont Seiont, Looking towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)


(?) 1798

Denbigh Castle and the Vale of Clwyd


(?) 1798

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


(?) 1798

Denbigh Castle and the Vale of Clwyd


(?) 1798

A View of Hills and a River, Probably in North Wales


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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