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Works Thomas Girtin

The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Stone-next-Dartford

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1426: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Stone-next-Dartford, 1797–98, graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 26 × 35.8 cm, 10 ¼ × 14 ⅛ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.8).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Church of St Mary the Virgin, Stone-next-Dartford
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
26 × 35.8 cm, 10 ¼ × 14 ⅛ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Dover and Kent; Gothic Architecture: Parish Church

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
335 as 'Stone Church, Kent'; '1799–1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Jackson (d.1828); his sale, Christie's, 26 March 1807, lot 75; unsold, with a reserve of £12 12s; ... Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.9; Mayne, 1949, pl.17 as 'Stone Church, near Gravesend'

About this Work

This fine, little-known watercolour depicts the church of St Mary the Virgin at Stone-next-Dartford. Known for centuries as the Lantern of Kent, because of its position on the top of a hill overlooking the river Thames, the church was seen as a sign of safe haven by sailors returning home. Stone would have been easily accessible to Girtin, either as a day trip from London or on the way to or from the Kent countryside, but it may still be that he based his view of the church and the surrounding landscape on a sketch by another artist. Girtin’s two views of nearby Dartford (TG0843 and TG0844), for instance, were copied from a drawing by the amateur artist John Henderson (1764–1843), and the antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), whose sketches provided Girtin with the models for so many of his earliest architectural views, made an extensive survey of the churches of the counties of Kent and Surrey. Moreover, the origin of the work in a sketch by an amateur artist might account for the way that the perspective of the church has gone awry, particularly in the east end. But, that said, the balance between the architectural subject and the landscape setting is so heavily in favour of the latter as to suggest that Girtin studied the view in person, and the focus of the artist’s interest is actually on the way that the elevated setting gives way to the distant valley of the Thames. The sudden shift from a boldly abstract foreground to the flat patterned valley is reminiscent of a number of the coastal views that Girtin sketched on his trip to the West Country in 1797, including the rather less successful A Cliff-Top View, Probably on the Coast of Dorset (TG1239), and I suspect that we are looking at a comparable date for this work too. The similarities extend beyond the experimental composition to include a very similar palette that in both cases has been unaffected by fading; aside from an unsightly stain, the view of Stone church is in excellent condition. Girtin’s choice of pigments in this work did not include the fugitive indigo and gamboge (for the blues and yellows, respectively) that were to blight so many of later watercolours, and the view’s fresh state helps to confirm its status as an original composition from around 1797–98.

1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1797 - 1798

A Cliff-Top View, Probably on the Coast of Dorset


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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