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Works Thomas Girtin

Pont Seiont, Looking Towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)

1799

Primary Image: TG1328: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Pont Seiont, Looking towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain), 1799, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on an original washline mount, 27.7 × 40 cm, 10 ⅞ × 15 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Christie's Images (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), mezzotint, Landscape with Hill and Cloud, 1822/23, published belatedly in 1885, 14.8 × 25 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ⅞ in. Fineart.Market.

Photo courtesy of Fineart.Market (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • Pont Seiont, Looking Towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)
Date
1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper, on an original washline mount
Dimensions
27.7 × 40 cm, 10 ⅞ × 15 ¾ in
Inscription

‘Girtin 1799’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Samuel William Reynolds: Dealer; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; North Wales

Collection
Versions
Pont Seiont, Looking towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain) (TG1327)
Catalogue Number
TG1328
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2000 and 2002

Provenance

Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835) (1803 list of works disposed of: 'View in Wales' sold with four others for £50); bought by Elizabeth Weddell (née Ramsden) (1749–1831), December 1801; bequeathed to John Charles Ramsden (1788–1836); then by descent to Phyllida Gordon-Duff-Pennington (née Pennington-Ramsden); Sotheby’s, 11 April 1991, lot 68 as 'View of Mynnydd Mawr, North Wales', unsold; C. Thomas Toppin to 1997; Spink-Leger Pictures; Christie’s, 11 June 2003, lot 1, £106,050; Lowell Libson Ltd.

Exhibition History

Spink-Leger, London, 2000, no.25; London, 2002, no.119 as ’Mynnydd Mawr, North Wales’

Bibliography

Bauer, 1998, p.68; Libson, 2007, pp.58–59

About this Work

This fine watercolour showing the view towards Mynydd Mawr (Big or Elephant Mountain) is based on an on-the-spot colour sketch that Girtin produced on his tour of North Wales in 1798 (TG1327). The sketch, which until recently went under various inaccurate or vague titles, has recently been identified as showing the Pont Seiont (Seiont Bridge), on the road leading out of Caernarfon on the way to Beddgelert, with Mynydd Mawr in the distance. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak thought that it was produced on a putative later tour, but the emergence of this watercolour with an inscribed date of 1799 has helped to establish that all of the Welsh sketches were made on Girtin’s visit in 1798, and indeed that this was his only trip to the country. It is not surprising that the identity of the location of the scene should have remained uncertain for so long, because Mynydd Mawr neither was popular with fellow artists nor featured regularly in the accounts of tourists to the region, and the work itself was known simply as ‘View in Wales’ during Girtin’s lifetime when it was engraved in mezzotint (see print after TG1328). Moreover, as with many of the other landscapes that were produced following the 1798 tour, Girtin did not include any local colour or incident that might indicate that this a Welsh scene. The foreground is thus left almost as bare as the sketch, whilst the figures on the bridge are too small to be individualised. As with A View of Hills and a River (TG1336) and The Ogwen Falls (TG1330), which have been wrongly titled as Yorkshire and Lake District scenes respectively, this is first and foremost a landscape of natural effects, rather than a representation of a country with its own history, culture and language.

Girtin used his sketches from the tour to complete a number of large-scale works that were produced on commission for various patrons, in particular Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) (such as TG1330 and TG1322). This smaller dated work was produced in altogether different circumstances, however, for it is documented as first having been in the possession of Girtin’s representative, Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted somewhere between an agent and a dealer at this date, and is recorded as selling it to Elizabeth Weddell (1749–1831), along with four other watercolours, for £50 in December 1801 (the others being TG1724, TG1725, TG1734 and TG1736) (Reynolds, Letter, 1803).1 This was shortly after the artist’s departure for France, which Reynolds thought would make his stock of twenty-nine ‘drawings by Girtin … much more Valuable’ (Reynolds, Letter, 1801).2 The view of Mynydd Mawr is therefore of considerable importance, in addition to its not insignificant aesthetic merits, as evidence, firstly, of the activities of a major female collector of the artist’s work and, secondly, of Girtin’s move away from a dependence on the support of patrons. The presence of this dated view in a list of works sold by Reynolds suggests that his working relationship with Girtin began as early as 1799 and that, from this point on, the artist produced a large group of watercolours, ‘Large size’ and ‘smaller’, for his representative to sell. Hitherto, Girtin had only very occasionally dated his works, and so the ‘1799’ added to this work and Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd (TG1302), which also appears to have passed through Reynolds’ hands, marks this and the more than thirty watercolours dated 1800 out as a new type of commodity that required a date to prove to potential customers that they were not buying old, unsold stock.

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). The paper has a similar furnish to the support used for one of Girtin’s most important on-the-spot colour sketches from his Welsh tour, A Mountain View, near Beddgelert (TG1321), but it was made from a different mould. The work is mounted on a later, nineteenth-century board.

(?) 1798

Pont Seiont, Looking towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)

TG1327

1799

Pont Seiont, Looking towards Mynydd Mawr (Big Mountain)

TG1328

(?) 1798

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

TG1336

1798 - 1799

The Ogwen Falls

TG1330

1798 - 1799

The Ogwen Falls

TG1330

1798 - 1799

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert

TG1322

1800 - 1801

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East

TG1724

1800

The Village of Jedburgh

TG1725

(?) 1800

Lydford Castle, from the River Lyd

TG1734

(?) 1800

On the River Taw, North Devon, Looking from Braunton Marsh towards Instow and Appledore

TG1736

1799

Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd

TG1302

(?) 1798

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert

TG1321

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 The letter detailing the sales of Girtin’s works by Reynolds is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1803 – Item 3).
  2. 2 The letter is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1801 – Item 4).

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