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Works Thomas Girtin

Trees and Pond, Said to Be near Bromley

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1420: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Trees and Pond, Said to Be near Bromley, 1798–99, graphite, watercolour, bodycolour and scratching out on laid paper, 21 × 31.5 cm, 8 ¼ × 12 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1194).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Trees and Pond, Said to Be near Bromley
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour and scratching out on laid paper
21 × 31.5 cm, 8 ¼ × 12 ⅜ in

‘Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin (the signature has been cut, suggesting that it once extended onto an original mount which has been lost); 'A Pit nr Bromley Coloured from Nature Girtin' on an old mount

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Dover and Kent; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
273 as 'Trees and Pond near Bromley'; '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


'Statham'; his untraced sale, Christie’s, 1861, unknown lot; bought by George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911) (lent to London, 1875); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.99 as 'Trees and Pond near Bromley, Kent ... Drawn and coloured on the spot'; Agnew’s, 1931, no.99; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.42; London, 1962a, no.141; Reading, 1969, no.44; New Haven, 1982, IV.11.; New Haven, 1986a, no.66; London, 2002, no.87


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.65

About this Work

This rather faded watercolour has consistently been described as an on-the-spot colour sketch on the basis of an inscription on the back of an old mount, which reads ‘Colored from Nature Girtin’. This has not been preserved, however, and because it is unlikely to have been written by the artist himself, there is no reason to believe that the author had any more knowledge of the work’s status than can be gleaned from the drawing itself, and the claim at best seems speculative. Thus, although the drawing displays some of the spontaneity of sketches worked up on the spot, such as A Mountain View, near Beddgelert (TG1321), and the washes used for the reflections in the water are rapidly worked enough to have persuaded me in 2002 that it was ‘Colored from Nature’, now I am not so sure (Smith, 2002b, p.113). The density of the colouring, which means that the majority of the area of the watercolour is covered in multiple layers of wash, with no parts of the sheet left unfinished, is more redolent of a studio work. This is substantiated by comparisons with another local view, A Sandpit, near Logs Hill, Widmore (TG1422), which appears to have been used as the basis for a finished studio watercolour and therefore has an altogether stronger case to be considered as an on-the-spot sketch. My change of mind about the work’s status has partly come about from a growing appreciation of the effect of fading on Girtin’s works. In this case, what must have been a complex sky has lost much of its impact, and the foliage has flattened out so that it appears much more sketch-like than originally was the case. The latter feature was interpreted by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak as evidence of the influence of the work of the amateur artist Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), but I now think that it masks the fact that the effect of the dense vegetation was created by up to three layers of wash, which is incompatible with working on the spot, since it would have required periods of time to allow each application to dry (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.65). The signature to the right, which must have originally strayed onto a missing mount, is another factor that led to my change of mind. The telling point, however, is that continuing uncertainty about the status of the work actually illustrates one of the most characteristic and radical aspects of Girtin’s work: namely, the manner in which the artist wilfully obscured the boundaries between the sketch and the finished watercolour.

I am also not sure that the second part of the inscription, which identifies the location of the tree-lined pond as Bromley in Kent, is any more convincing. There is a series of works that have been linked with various degrees of certainty with the area south of London. Much of this seems to have occurred because Bromley Hill was the location of the home of the artist’s best-known pupil, Amelia Long, Lady Farnborough (1772–1837), who made the area the subject of many of her own watercolours, inspired by her teacher’s style. However, Amelia and her husband, Charles Long, 1st Baron Farnborough (1760–1838), did not move to their estate until 1801, and, given that none of the landscapes associated with the area appear to date from that late, there must be a question mark about the titles of works such as Barns and a Pond, Said to Be near Bromley (TG1418). In the case of this work, the form of the distant hill beyond the trees seems more akin to a northern scene than what might be seen in the Home Counties, and the subject of the deeply enclosed view of nature is actually reminiscent of Plumpton Rocks (TG1553) or one of Girtin’s views along the river Wharfe (TG1554). For that reason, whilst I have changed my mind about the status of the work, my original thought about a date for it and the related views – around 1798–99 – still feels about right.

(?) 1798

A Mountain View, near Beddgelert


1798 - 1799

A Sandpit, near Logs Hill, Widmore


1799 - 1800

Barns and a Pond, Said to Be near Bromley


1800 - 1801

Plumpton Rocks, near Knaresborough


1800 - 1801

On the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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