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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

The Doric Temple at Southill

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1568: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Doric Temple at Southill, (?) 1800, watercolour on laid paper, 22.1 × 32.9 cm, 8 ¾ × 12 ⅞ in. Tate (T08236).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Doric Temple at Southill
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper
22.1 × 32.9 cm, 8 ¾ × 12 ⅞ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Bedfordshire View; The Landscape Park

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
396 as '"In Mr. Whitbread's Park"'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


J. Palser & Sons; bought from them by Paul Oppé (1878–1957), 1913, £1; then by descent; bought by Tate as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, 1996

Exhibition History

London, 1934b, no.1204; Chelsea, 1947, no.24; Sheffield, 1952, no.34; South London Art Gallery, 1951, no.155; London, 1958a, no.155; Ottawa, 1961, no.47; London, 1984a, no.73 as ’In Mr. Whitbread’s Park’


Oppé, 1957–59, p.97, no.198; Tate Online as 'In Mr Whitbread’s Park. The Doric Temple at Southill, Bedfordshire, Built Circa 1795' (Accessed 18/09/2022)

About this Work

Although this monochrome sketch has more of the appearance of one of the imaginative scenes produced at the Sketching Society, an old inscription that apparently read ‘In Mr Whitbread’s Park’ has identified it as showing a Doric temple at Southill Park, the mansion built for the wealthy brewer Samuel Whitbread (1720–96). However, it was his son, a politician who was also called Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815), who was Girtin’s patron. He bought at least two of Girtin’s works, Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd (TG1302) and An Unidentified Valley (TG1441), and, just as importantly, supported Girtin’s agent and dealer, Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), when he faced bankruptcy. That said, there is no other evidence either that this work came from Whitbread’s collection or that Girtin himself ever visited the Bedfordshire estate; indeed, the latter point may help to explain the discrepancies between the view shown here and the precise layout of the northern part of the park at Southill. Thus, as Stephen Deuchar has noted, the small Doric temple, known as the Fishing Temple, which was completed sometime between 1796 and 1800 to a design by Henry Holland (17451806), appears to have been moved to a higher situation, and the free-standing arch to its right has been detached from its position adjacent to that structure and increased considerably in size, though it is unclear what the tall, thin form next to the lake is (Deuchar, 1984, p.79). In other words, what we are looking at here is as much a work of the imagination as a portrait of a place, and I think that there is a real chance that it was either made from a description or loosely worked up from a secondary source. The poor, faded state of the drawing does not help, but in the end, and despite Girtin’s connections with Whitbread, I am not fully convinced by the attribution either. Without the work’s traditional title, I suspect that I would have been quite happy to have seen the work described as an unknown Sketching Society scene by an unidentified artist, and there is something about the lumpy and undifferentiated washes employed here that does not accord with Girtin’s style, even at its most summary.


Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd


1798 - 1799

An Unidentified Valley, Probably in North Wales


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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