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Works Thomas Girtin

The Valley of the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert (page 15 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1324: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Valley of the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert, 1800–01, watercolour on wove paper, 14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.15).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), mezzotint, 'Snowdon', 7 May 1824, 16.1 × 22.9 cm, 6 ⁵⁄₁₆ × 9 in. Republished in Liber Naturae; or, A Collection of Prints from the Drawings of Thomas Girtin, pl.10, 1883. British Museum, London (1893,0612.82.11).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Valley of the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert (page 15 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Watercolour on wove paper
14.6 × 21.7 cm, 5 ¾ × 8 ½ in

‘Beddgelert’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; North Wales

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
361 as 'Beddgelert ... Done on the spot'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2022


Sale at Platt Vicarage, Rusholme, Manchester, 1898; sketchbook bought by 'Shepherd; then by descent to F. W. Shepherd; his sale, Sotheby’s, 7 July 1977, lot 46; bought by Baskett and Day; bought by the Gallery, 1977

Exhibition History

London, 2002, no.88


Hardie, 1938–39, no.4, p.92; Mayne, 1949, p.55; NACF, Report, 1977, p.119; Miller, 1977, pp.84–85; Lyles, 2000, p.142; Bishop, 2018–19, pp.92–93

About this Work

This watercolour showing the distinctive hill of Dinas Emrys, seen from the valley of the Glaslyn (see TG1322 figure 1), appears on page fifteen of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625), and it therefore depicts a similar view to that seen in Girtin’s important 1799 Royal Academy exhibit, A Mountain View, near Beddgelert (TG1322). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak argued that the book was used by the artist for sketches made on his travels, and, believing that Girtin visited Wales a second time in the summer of 1800, they concluded that the drawing was ‘Done on the spot’ in that year (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.183). However, the evidence for a second Welsh visit has not stood the test of time, though it should have been clear in any case to the earlier writers that the artist would not have made the arduous trip to Snowdonia only to redo a sketch that he had already undertaken in 1798 (TG1321). The complex make-up of the Book of Drawings is such that, although the majority of the sketches included were made around 1800 on a gathering of various different papers put together by the artist himself, it is still possible that this work was made in 1798. As the paper historian Peter Bower has noted, some of the drawings were made on separate sheets at various dates, and these appear to have been bound in with Girtin’s own gathering after his death, as the book’s end paper has a watermark of ‘1803’ (Bower, 2002, p.141). This, I suspect, was done at the behest of the artist’s brother John Girtin (1773–1821) who appropriated material from the artist’s studio after his death including ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’, a combination that accords with the unusual makeup of the book (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 With this in mind, I was happy to date this small watercolour to 1798 when I catalogued the Book of Drawings for Girtin’s 2002 bicentenary exhibition, even noting ‘signs of having been coloured on the spot’ (Smith, 2002b, p.115). It is a measure of the confusing nature of the book and its make-up, so different from the typical artist’s sketchbook, that I am now sure that that was a mistake. Even a cursory comparison of the earlier on-the-spot sketch (TG1321) and this more carefully worked watercolour indicates that the latter was produced in the studio. The careful organisation of the sky alone, compared with the fluid washes and the more restricted palette of the sketch, should have told me that this is a later reworking of a sketch from the 1798 tour. This is confirmed by the fact that some of the colour has strayed onto the opposite page, meaning that the work must have been executed after the artist made his gathering of paper around 1800.

Girtin’s motive for making a sketch-like copy of a view of a Welsh mountain scene in the Book of Drawings is not, in the end, difficult to discern. The book originally contained fifty-four pages, sixteen of which have been cut out (presumably removed for sale), and there is evidence that at least seven of these were in colour, of which three are specifically recorded in inscriptions as being ‘Color’d on the spot’. So, in addition to being a sketchbook in the traditional sense of a repository of on-the-spot drawings, the book was used both as a guide for patrons commissioning finished watercolours and as a source for the sale of sketches to collectors who appreciated the artist’s more informal works, including those made in the studio to look like drawings made from nature. Whether or not the latter practice was a problem in this case cannot be determined, though the work is one of only two coloured drawings that remained unsold. The majority of the sales were no doubt made by the artist himself, but it is not out of the question that others were disposed of after the book assumed its final bound form, either by John Girtin or perhaps Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. He must have had access to the book at some point as he made a mezzotint after the drawing (see the print after, above, Neill & Son, 1883), and Reynolds’ posthumous sale actually included an item listed as ‘Girtin’s sketch-book; a volume containing sixty sketches in pencil views in England’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 18 April 1836, lot 181).

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a white wove drawing paper, probably manufactured by Robert Edmeads (unknown dates) and Thomas Pine (unknown dates) at Great Ivy Mill near Maidstone (Bower, Report).

1798 - 1799

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


(?) 1798

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


(?) 1798

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 John Girtin lists this amongst the contents of his brother's studio. Details are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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