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Works Thomas Girtin

The River Dee, near Corwen


Primary Image: TG1347: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), The River Dee, near Corwen, 1798, graphite and watercolour on paper, 12.5 × 19.5 cm, 4 ⅞ × 7 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The River Dee, near Corwen
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
12.5 × 19.5 cm, 4 ⅞ × 7 ⅝ in

‘T. Girtin / 16 Augt 1798’ on the mount in a contemporary hand, possibly by Thomas Girtin; ‘Sketch of a Scene near Corwen / taken on the Spot by / T. Girtin. Augt 1798’ on the reverse of the mount

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
North Wales; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Mrs J. Firmin; her sale, Sotheby’s, 21 November 1984, lot 95, £726

About this Work

This small view of the river Dee near Corwen was sketched on the spot during Girtin’s tour of North Wales in the summer of 1798. It appears to have been taken from about half a kilometre to the south of the village, looking towards the bridge crossing the river. The sketch is known only from a black and white image in an auction catalogue, so it has not been possible to verify the status of either the inscription on the mount or the one on the back, which date Girtin’s presence in Corwen to 16 August 1798. This is of some importance, because although the modest sketch did not form the basis of any studio watercolour, it actually provides us with the only securely documented date for the 1798 tour. Moreover, because we know that Girtin was in London on 28 August, the day on which his portrait was drawn by George Dance (1741–1825) (TG1933), the date of 16 August on this drawing indicates that it was made on the return leg of the artist’s tour, helping to show that he took a broadly anti-clockwise route. But what is so curious here is that whilst so many of Girtin’s contemporaries not only dated their on-the-spot sketches but even noted the time that they were executed, Girtin, with the exception of just two pencil drawings from 1791 and 1792 (TG0059 and TG0016), only ever occasionally added a date, and nothing more specific than the year was ever recorded. Why it was that just once, on Monday 16 August 1798, that the artist added a precise date to a drawing is therefore something of a mystery, but the fact that it was a unique occurrence suggests to me that it can be trusted as evidence of the artist’s movements, even if there is no proof that the inscription is in Girtin’s hand.

Another river view by Girtin appears to show the same bridge near Corwen (TG1348), though it was titled ‘Conway’ by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak on the basis of an inscription on the reverse of the drawing (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.170). Although the watercolour is worked on the same small scale, it does not appear to have been made on the spot.


Profile Portrait of Thomas Girtin



All Saints’ Church, Fulham, from the Seven Bells, Putney



St Mary’s Church, Battersea


1798 - 1799

A River Scene, Probably on the Dee near Corwen


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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