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Works Thomas Girtin

Sharpham House on the River Dart

(?) 1797

Primary Image: TG1273: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Sharpham House on the River Dart, (?) 1797, graphite on wove paper, 13 × 19.9 cm, 5 ⅛ × 7 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1185).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Sharpham House on the River Dart
(?) 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
13 × 19.9 cm, 5 ⅛ × 7 ⅞ in

‘Sharpham’ lower left by Thomas Girtin; ‘near Totness - Bastard Esq. 6’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin; ‘T Girtin’ on the back

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
205 as 'Sharpham, near Totnes'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Dr John Percy (1817–89); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 17 April 1890, lot 505 (one of 9); bought by 'Dowdeswell', £2 2s; John Postle Heseltine (1843–1929); his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 29 May 1935, lot 313; volume bought by Bernard Squire, £32; bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.61


YCBA Online as 'Sharpham, near Totnes, Devon' (Accessed 16/09/2022)

About this Work

This slight sketch of Sharpham House, overlooking the river Dart in Devon, was almost certainly executed on Girtin’s West Country tour in the autumn of 1797. The artist is documented as having been in Exeter in early November where he sketched the interior of the cathedral and worked along the river Exe before journeying west along the south coast (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 Sharpham, near Totnes, fits in with his known itinerary prior to turning north to stay at Bideford later in the month. Amongst the images of the region’s great medieval monuments and its coastal villages, ports and fashionable resorts, this sketch stands out as the only country house view. The way that the artist inscribed the drawing with the location of the house and the name of its then owner, Edmund Bastard (1758–1816), suggests that Girtin was hoping to attract a commission for a watercolour of Sharpham, though there is no evidence that one was forthcoming. There are a number of country house views by Girtin that are unidentified (such as TG1559), but none of them resemble the three-storey structure shown here. Sharpham House was designed by Sir Robert Taylor (1714–88) for Captain Philomen Pownall (c.1734–80), who made his fortune through the capture of a Spanish galleon, though work was only finished later by his daughter, Jane Pownall (unknown dates), who married Bastard in 1783. A newly completed mansion with a spectacular setting presumably suggested to Girtin that a commission might be forthcoming.

1798 - 1799

An Unidentified House in an Open Landscape


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The financial records of the artist's brother John Girtin (1773–1821) include two loans he made to Thomas Girtin during the trip. The records are transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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