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Works Thomas Girtin

Sandsend (page 29 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1609: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Sandsend, (?) 1800, graphite on wove paper, 14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.28).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Sandsend (page 29 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in

‘b’ upper left; ‘52’ lower left; traces of two erased inscriptions to the bottom

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
River Scenery; The Village; Yorkshire View

Sandsend (TG1702)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
426i as 'Sandsend, Yorkshire'; '1801'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2022


Sale at Platt Vicarage, Rusholme, Manchester, 1898; sketchbook bought by 'Shepherd'; then by descent to F. W. Shepherd; his sale, Sotheby’s, 7 July 1977, lot 46; bought by Baskett and Day; bought by the Gallery, 1977


Hardie, 1934, p.1; Hardie, 1938–39, no.10, p.93

About this Work

This sketch of the village of Sandsend, north of Whitby on the North Yorkshire coast, is found on page twenty-nine of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625), and it formed the basis of a fine watercolour that is dated to Girtin’s last year, 1802 (TG1702). It shows the wooden bridge crossing the East Row Beck and was therefore taken only a few metres away from the beach viewpoint of Girtin’s memorable on-the-spot colour sketch A Distant View of Whitby (TG1628). Both Sandsend drawings were almost certainly executed during the artist’s stay with Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831), at nearby Mulgrave Castle, which also features in a number of pencil drawings in or from the Book of Drawings (such as TG1625 and TG1626). The famous diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) noted that Lord Mulgrave had recalled that Girtin ‘was with Him a little time at Mulgrave Castle’ at a point when he ‘laboured under symptoms of an Asthma which not long afterwards killed him’ (Farington, Diary, 24 May 1807), and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak interpreted this to mean that the artist travelled north again in the spring of 1801 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.41). Mulgrave’s testimony comes from five years later, however, and, though Girtin did not produce his watercolour of Sandsend until 1802, I suspect that the sketches were produced earlier in 1800, not least because Girtin was documented as travelling as far north as the Scottish Borders in that year, and Mulgrave Castle could have been taken in on the way (Jenkins, Notes, 1852). A date of 1800 appears to be more suitable for a whole group of drawings made in the area of Sandsend and Whitby, including a series of views of shipping on the coast (such as TG1623).

The fact that the watercolour of this view was produced a couple of years later is a reminder that the Book of Drawings, as well as being the repository of a stock of sketches that might be sold to discerning collectors, was also a pattern book from which patrons could choose a subject to be realised in watercolours. Certainly this was not a sketchbook in the sense that we understand it today as a sequential collection of on-the-spot drawings. Thus, the fact that the sketch A Distant View of Whitby once formed part of the previous page is misleading as it may have changed positions within the binding. This presumably occurred after Girtin’s death, when additional sheets were bound in with end papers with an ‘1803’ watermark and a hard cover, none of which would have been part of the ensemble during the artist’s lifetime. As the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, the ‘book’ initially took the form of a gathering of a number of different papers by Girtin, rather than being bought as a ready-made commodity, and it would have looked very different when used for sketching views such as this (Bower, 2002, p.141). This, I suspect, was done at the behest of the artist’s brother John Girtin (1773–1821) who appropriated material from the artist’s studio after his death including ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’, a combination that accords with the unusual makeup of the book (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).




(?) 1800

A Distant View of Whitby


(?) 1800

The Ruins of Old Mulgrave Castle


(?) 1800

Mulgrave Park and Castle, from near Epsyke Farm


(?) 1800

Five Craft off the Coast on a Calm Sea


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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