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Works Thomas Girtin

Trees in a Glade Overlooking a Lake

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1404: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Trees in a Glade Overlooking a Lake, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 23.2 × 22 cm, 9 ⅛ × 8 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hollow (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Trees in a Glade Overlooking a Lake
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
23.2 × 22 cm, 9 ⅛ × 8 ⅝ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Trees and Woods; Unidentified Landscape

A River Valley and a Distant Hill Seen through Trees (TG1772)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in May 2018


Richard Ellison (1788–1860); ... unknown auction, c.1980

About this Work

A View on the Galleria di Sopra, Lake Albano

The date of this sketch of trees in a glade has proved elusive, as has its function. Initially, I thought that it might be related to A View in Windsor Great Park with Deer (TG0174), which includes, in another upright composition, a similarly claustrophobic group of trees with a lighter vista in the distance. That watercolour, showing a quintessentially British scene of oak trees and deer, can be dated on stylistic grounds to about 1793–94, but that feels too early for this drawing, and I am now inclined to follow a suggestion made by Susan Morris that Girtin was influenced by an Italian view by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) showing the Galleria di Sopra, Lake Albano (see figure 1) (comments made in an email to Guy Peppiatt). The form of the trees in Girtin’s sketch is indeed close to Cozens’ composition, and one can also make out in the distance a stretch of water with vertiginous banks that resembles the location of Lake Albano, in the crater of an extinct volcano; the palette of colours employed by Girtin is also reminiscent of Cozens’ low-toned watercolour, though this may have been enhanced by its slightly faded condition. None of the numerous copies of the sketches and outlines by Cozens that Girtin made at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) in collaboration with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) contain such a dark profusion of tree forms, and this watercolour also does not seem to be related stylistically to the works produced for their patron. However, this particular version of Cozens’ View on the Galleria di Sopra, Lake Albano is known to have been owned by another of Girtin’s patrons, Sir George Howland Beaumont, 7th Baronet (1753–1827), and it is likely that the artist saw it in his collection around 1799–1800, so its influence is in any case likely to postdate Girtin’s association with Monro. This was a time when Girtin produced a group of seven watercolours of Lake District scenes from sketches made by Beaumont (such as TG1580), and, given that he probably painted them in the patron’s house, it follows that he would have had access to the Cozens drawing, though there is no evidence that Trees in a Glade was ever owned by Beaumont or that it was produced for him.

Uncertainty about the precise function of the work has been alleviated, at least partly, by the discovery during the preparation of this online catalogue that it is closely related to a slightly smaller colour study titled A River Valley and a Distant Hill Seen through Trees (TG1772), which appears to date from around 1800. There are some small differences in the distant part of the landscape, but the trees in both works are almost identical. All of this begs the question of which came first, and indeed which, if either, was sketched from nature. However, although the colour study has been described as an on-the-spot colour sketch, possibly made at Harewood House, there is no evidence to back this up, and I suspect that its close relationship with this monochrome study and its associations with the work of Cozens help to confirm that it too is a studio work, and also that it is essentially an imaginary scene.

1794 - 1795

A View in Windsor Great Park with Deer


1799 - 1800

Grange in Borrowdale


1800 - 1801

A River Valley and a Distant Hill Seen through Trees


by Greg Smith

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