For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works (?) Thomas Girtin

St Paul’s Cathedral, from the Thames

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG1863a: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), St Paul's Cathedral, from the Thames, 1796–97, graphite on paper, 22.9 × 16.5 cm, 9 × 6 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • St Paul’s Cathedral, from the Thames
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
22.9 × 16.5 cm, 9 × 6 ½ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
London and Environs; London Architecture; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Exhibition Catalogue


Sir Walter Henry Bromley Davenport (1903–89); his sale, Christie's, 16 June 1970, lot 122 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, 140 gns; Ernest Heinzer, San Francisco (lent to Berkeley, 1975)

Exhibition History

Berkeley, 1975, no.6 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Hill, 1993, pp.14–15 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This study of part of the southern flank of St Paul’s Cathedral, taken from the river Thames close to the northern end of Blackfriars Bridge, was attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) when it was last seen in public in 1975 (Exhibitions: Berkeley, 1975, no.6). Since then the drawing has been reattributed to Girtin by Andrew Wilton, and, according to a note in the Girtin Archive (12/3), this change was supported by Tom Girtin (1913–94), who added an image of the work to a manuscript copy of the catalogue of the artist’s works that his father, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), created. From what I can see from a black and white photograph, this seems entirely reasonable. The range of touches, varying in strength and tone, combined with the frequent recourse to what amounts to a signature tick, whereby the artist pressed the graphite to leave a small darker point as a marker of his position on the sheet of paper, are seen in comparable architectural views by Girtin such as Caernarfon: A Street Scene with Plas Mawr (TG1313). This conclusion is backed up by the boldly truncated form of the boats in the foreground, which resemble another Thames view that uses the same device to involve the viewer in a view of St Paul’s (TG1386).

David Hill, however, returned the attribution of the drawing to Turner in his book Turner on the Thames, making much of the effective way in which the author of the work ignored the wide sweep of the river at this point, opting instead to show a narrow angle that includes just the western part of St Paul’s within an upright format. As Hill notes, this has the effect of emphasising the sheer bulk of the cathedral with an ‘arresting immediacy of engagement’, something that can be easily lost when depicting the full length of the building from the south (Hill, 1993, pp.14–15). Although Hill’s point is well made and he includes other examples of Thames views by Turner that employ a vertical composition to show familiar scenes from a different angle, I still favour an attribution to Girtin on stylistic grounds. Moreover, the way that the view of St Paul’s is radically cropped to create a different perspective on the building, combined with the intrusive foreground, which places the viewer at river level with the artist, can equally be associated with Girtin at this date, around 1796–97.

(?) 1798

Caernarfon: A Street Scene with Plas Mawr (The Great House)


1796 - 1797

The Thames, with St Paul’s and Blackfriars Bridge


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.