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Works Thomas Girtin

The Eildon Hills, from the River Tweed at Dryburgh


Primary Image: TG1718: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Eildon Hills, from the River Tweed at Dryburgh, 1800, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper, 49.3 × 64.3 cm, 19 ⅜ × 25 ¼ in. The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (1009).

Photo courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: James Mérigot (active 1772–1816), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), aquatint and etching, hand-coloured, 'Eildon Hills' for John Stoddart, Remarks on Local Scenery & Manners in Scotland During the Years 1799 and 1800, vol.2, p.279, May 1801, 12.1 × 18.1 cm, 4 ¾ × 7 ⅛ in. British Museum, London (1872,0413.290).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Eildon Hills, from the River Tweed at Dryburgh
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on laid paper
49.3 × 64.3 cm, 19 ⅜ × 25 ¼ in

‘Girtin 1800’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Visible Fold in the Paper
Subject Terms
River Scenery; The Scottish Borders

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
354 as 'The Eildon Hills, near Melrose'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


James Stuart-Wortley, 1st Baron Wharncliffe (1776–1845); B. M. Oliver; his sale, Christie’s, 27 April 1867, lot 2 as 'Eildon Hills, near Abbotsford. Signed 1800. From Lord Wharncliffe’s Collection' (noted as 'faded'); bought by 'Noseda'; Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Girtin (1836–1912) (lent to London, 1875; London, 1877); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); presented to the Museum, 1920

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.56 as ’Eildon Hills, Melrose’; London, 1877, no.310 as ’Weston, River Wharfe’; London, 1912, no.41; Edinburgh, 1978, no.8.2


Stoddart, 1801, p.279; Mayne, 1949, pl.30; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.74; Rock, 1997, p.192

About this Work

The Eildon Hills, Roxburghshire

This very faded watercolour, which dates from 1800, shows a distant view of the Eildon Hills taken from the river Tweed near Dryburgh in the Scottish Borders. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak thought that the view depicted was from Melrose (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.182), but the angle of the hills accords much better with the view from Dryburgh, where Girtin is known to have stayed in 1800 with the 11th Earl of Buchan (1742–1829) at his nearby seat (Jenkins, Notes, 1852). The authors of the catalogue of Girtin’s watercolours also suggested that the work came from Buchan’s collection, though this cannot be substantiated, and we do not know the identity of the ‘friend’ who lent the work to the author John Stoddart (1773–1856) in 1801 for engraving as an illustration to his Remarks on Local Scenery and Manners in Scotland during the Years 1799 and 1800 (see the print after, above) (Stoddart, 1801, p.279). Indeed, at one point it did cross my mind that the work may have been copied from another source, rather than originally having been sketched on the spot, following the discovery of a strikingly similar image by the amateur artist Thomas Sunderland (1744–1828) (see figure 1). This, however, must have been copied from the print, and I now suspect that the work was produced on commission from a sketch made in 1800, as it does not conform to the size of the watercolours that Girtin was supplying at this date to Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. Surely it is not the case that Girtin made the watercolour for reproduction, as with many of his earlier topographical views. Stoddart thus mentions in the body of his text that he was grateful to be ‘able to insert a scene from a drawing of Mr. Girtin, executed with all that spirit and effect for which he is so remarkable’, so that it was as an example of the still-living artist’s skill that the work was included, rather than for its subject. Sadly, this is very difficult to appreciate today as a result of the work’s poor, faded condition. The hand-coloured aquatint, combined with the evidence of a thin strip around the work that was once protected from the detrimental effects of light, can give only a slight idea of its original appearance, prior to the loss of all the greys in the clouds and the blues in the sky, and the complete corruption of the greens of the vegetation. Consequently, I am not sure how Girtin and Loshak justified characterising the watercolour as an ‘intensely poetic’ conception, arguing that it is ‘most spacious, for here Girtin has suggested immense depth’, since a sense of space and distance is dependent on the subtleties of aerial perspective, which is singly lacking here (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.74).

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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