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Works Thomas Girtin

The Market Rooms, Weymouth

(?) 1797

Primary Image: TG1240: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Market Rooms, Weymouth, (?) 1797, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 17.4 × 25.9 cm, 6 ⅞ × 10 ¼ in. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (59.55.602).

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Market Rooms, Weymouth
(?) 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
17.4 × 25.9 cm, 6 ⅞ × 10 ¼ in

‘Market Rooms at Weymouth’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
195 as 'Old Roofs, Weymouth'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Lord Plymouth; Sir Alfred Hammond Aykroyd, 2nd Baronet (1894–1965); his sale, Christie’s, 23 January 1948, lot 46 as 'Old Houses'; Gilbert Davis (1899-1983); bought from him by the Gallery, 1959

Exhibition History

Huntington, 1993, no catalogue

About this Work

This partially coloured sketch of the old Market Rooms in Weymouth, on the Dorset coast, was almost certainly executed on the artist’s West Country tour in the autumn of 1797. Girtin is documented as having been in Exeter in early November and Bideford in north Devon later in the month, suggesting that if, as now seems likely, he visited Southampton first (see TG1234a), he then proceeded along the south coast to Weymouth in the latter part of October (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 After Southampton, the fast-developing resort town of Weymouth would have been a logical and convenient stop on the way to Exeter, though Girtin may also have been attracted to the location by the earlier experience of depicting the harbour for his patron James Moore (1762–99) (TG0911). That watercolour, which almost certainly predates Girtin’s visit to Weymouth in 1797, was probably executed from Moore’s on-the-spot sketches, and it makes an important feature of the new seafront buildings that sprang up in the wake of the royal family’s well-publicised visits to the newly fashionable resort. However, for this, one of two on-the-spot sketches Girtin made at Weymouth in 1797 (the other being TG1241), the artist looked inland to the older and more obviously picturesque part of the town. The old market with its open colonnade similar to the Guildhall in Exeter, which Girtin was to draw a few days later (TG1255), has long since been swept away, and it is just as well that the artist inscribed its identity since this seems to be the only record we have of its appearance. It is possible that it is the building seen in the distance of the slightly larger colour sketch of Weymouth, which includes a line of carts perhaps delivering goods to the market, and it may have been the location’s air of busy commerce that attracted the artist, though no finished work resulted from either of the sketches.

Girtin had hitherto only produced a handful of colour sketches when he embarked on the 1797 tour, preferring to apply monochrome washes over a pencil drawing when working on the spot, but this is one of at least five examples that supplemented the smaller outlines he made on the trip. Concurrently with this change in his working practice in the field, the artist also began to produce small, sketch-like works in the studio, but the on-the-spot colouring of the two Weymouth studies can be distinguished from those works by a number of features. In this case, the drawing displays clear signs that it was worked on away from the studio environment as the artist was not able to control the application of his washes, so that spots of colour have strayed onto its right half, and the presence of other stains on the back suggests that it was left to dry in contact with another sketch. The use of just a few colours, variants of olive green and a warmer tone for the roofs, is another sign of a sketch worked at speed in the field, as is the way that the drawing is left unfinished, with no part of the sky worked up, and the colonnade remains incomplete. The sketch has faded a little and is not so fresh and bright as the other Weymouth view, but there is no doubt that it too was sketched and coloured on the spot.

(?) 1797

A Distant View of Southampton


1796 - 1797

The Harbour at Weymouth


(?) 1797

A Street in Weymouth


(?) 1797

The Guildhall, Exeter


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The financial records of the artist's brother John Girtin (1773–1821) include two loans he made to Thomas Girtin during the trip. The records are transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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