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


1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1458: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Starcross, 1797–98, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 22.9 × 50.2 cm, 9 × 19 ¾ in, oval. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F03343-0049 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Starcross
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
22.9 × 50.2 cm, 9 × 19 ¾ in, oval
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Starcross (TG1456)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
200ii as 'Star Cross, Devonshire'; '1797'
Description Source(s)
Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive


Possibly bought by Peter Bluett (1767–1843) of Holcombe Court, Devon; then by descent to Peter Frederick Bluett (1806–84); Holcombe Court bought by the Revd William Rayer (1786–1866), 1858; his collection by descent to Revd George Morganig William Thomas Jenkins (1879–1952); acquired by Gooden & Fox Ltd., 1936

Exhibition History

Gooden & Fox, 1968, no.62

About this Work

This view of the riverside fishing village of Starcross, close to the Exe estuary in Devon, is one of two versions of a composition that Girtin presumably sketched on his 1797 tour to the West Country (the other being TG1456). It and its pair, another Devon coastal view, Kingswear (TG1266), are the only oval landscapes painted by Girtin. The works were discovered in the 1930s by Paul Oppé (1878–1957) in Holcombe Court in Devon, and at first sight they would appear to be an example of a patron commissioning a pair of local views from Girtin, something that may even have helped to finance the artist’s West Country tour. The owner of Holcombe during Girtin’s life was Peter Bluett (1767–1863), and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) made the not unreasonable assumption that he was the first owner of these views as well as another eight works by the artist that were found in the same house (Girtin Archive, 26). The watercolours make for a disparate group, however, dating from different periods of Girtin’s career and, aside from this pair, there is no obvious pattern to the subjects depicted or their format and function. It is perfectly possible that Bluett was a collector of Girtin’s work and that he even purchased the watercolours after the artist’s death, but it must also be remembered that Holcombe was sold in 1858, and it may be that the works actually came to the house from the new owner, the Revd William Rayer (1786–1866).

The idea that the pair of views of south Devon coastal villages might not have been produced at the behest of a local patron removes one possible explanation for the artist’s adoption of a highly uncharacteristic and not altogether successful format. For, although the composition of Kingswear works well enough as an oval, and indeed the composition may even have been suggested by the symmetrical curve of the hill, the artist has extended the composition of Starcross left and right, creating a more diffuse view that loses in the process the powerful diagonal that gives the traveller in the foreground his sense of momentum in the more traditional format of the scene. Rather than being tailored to fit the requirements of a patron’s display, therefore, it appears that the adoption of an oval was a case of Girtin experimenting with a panoramic format, perhaps introducing the rounded terminations to mitigate against the diffuse terminations inherent in the extended format. A picturesque fishing village, never mind that it is situated on the coast, proves an unsatisfactory subject for such an extended view, therefore, and presumably this was why the artist did not return to the oval format.

1798 - 1799



1798 - 1799

Kingswear, from Dartmouth


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.