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Works John Sell Cotman

Tintern Village, Seen across the Forge Pond, Formerly Known as ‘The Mill-Pond’

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1434: John Sell Cotman (1782–1842), Tintern Village, Seen across the Forge Pond, Formerly Known as 'The Mill-Pond', (?) 1800, watercolour on paper, 17.8 × 26 cm, 7 × 10 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (All Rights Reserved)

John Sell Cotman (1782-1842)
  • Tintern Village, Seen across the Forge Pond, Formerly Known as ‘The Mill-Pond’
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
17.8 × 26 cm, 7 × 10 ¼ in
Object Type
Formerly attributed to Thomas Girtin; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Picturesque Vernacular; The Wye River

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
216 as '"The Mill-Pond"' by Thomas Girtin; '1797'
Description Source(s)
Girtin Archive Photograph


Isaac Horrop; Christie’s, 28 May 1926, lot 8 as 'A River Scene'; R. F. Goldschmidt; Christie’s, 26 June 1941, lot 39 as 'Yorkshire Dale'; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £21; Winifred M. Church; her sale, Sotheby's, 4 May 1949, lot 3 as 'The Millpond'; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £130 (stock no.5898); Sir John Stuart Agnew, 3rd Baronet (1879–1957) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954); untraced

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1942, no.57, £55; Agnew’s, 1943, no.74, £47 5s; Agnew’s, 1950, no.91, £150; Agnew’s, 1952, no.57; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.85 as 'The Mill-Pond' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

1800, graphite on paper, 11.4 × 25.8 cm, 4 ½ × 10 ⅛ in. Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery (L1967.9.41).

This view of buildings seen across a body of water is known only from a poor-quality black and white photograph and although I expressed grave reservations at the time of the launch of this site about both its traditional title, The Mill-Pond, and its attribution to Thomas Girtin, it was not until I was contacted by Jeremy Yates in July 2023 that these issues were resolved. Yates confirmed my suspicion that the watercolour was in fact painted by a young John Sell Cotman (1782–1842) and he pointed out in his email (dated 25 July 2023) that it is based on a sketch by Cotman in the collection of Norwich Castle Museum (see figure 1) that is inscribed ‘July 2nd, 1800’.1 Moreover, Yates has also been able to identify the subject of the sketch and the resulting watercolour as showing a view of the village of Tintern seen from across the forge pond from the Beaufort Arms. As Yates notes, a sketch by the diarist/traveller John Byng, later Fifth Viscount Torrington (1743–1813), clearly shows the same scene albeit drawn nineteen years earlier (Torrington, Diaries, vol.1, p.24). Cotman would have been familiar with the work of Girtin by the summer of 1800, both through his association with the Sketching Society and his attendance at the home of Dr Thomas Monro where he made a number of copies of Girtin’s collaborations with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) (see TG0815 figure 1). It is not surprising, therefore, that his earliest watercolours can be mistaken for those of Girtin, a more established artist whose style influenced a generation of younger landscape artists that also included John Varley (1778–1842), Peter de Wint (1784–1849), and, briefly, John Constable (1776–1837).2

1795 - 1796

Vessels in the Harbour at Dover, with the Castle Beyond


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 This was confirmed by Miklós Rajnai who co-authored John Sell Cotman 1782 –1842: Early Drawings (1798–1812) in Norwich Castle Museum where the drawing is catalogued as no.4 and titled A House by Water.
  2. 2 Three works in Cotman’s Girtinesque manner are illustrated in Anne Lyles and Greg Smith, Girtin’s Influence on Contemporary Watercolour Practice (Smith, 2002b, pp.234–53).

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