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Works Thomas Girtin

Trees in a Park

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1588: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Trees in a Park, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 24.4 × 44.1 cm, 9 ⅝ × 17 ⅛ in. Tate (T08112).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Trees in a Park
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
24.4 × 44.1 cm, 9 ⅝ × 17 ⅛ in

‘Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Trees and Woods; Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
406 as 'Scene in a Park'; 'c. 1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Walter S. Sichel (d.1933); his posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 25 October 1933, no.120 as 'A Landscape Drawing in Indian ink ... attributed to J. Constable'; bought by Paul Oppé (1878–1957), £2 2s; then by descent; bought by Tate as part of the Oppé Collection with assistance from the National Lottery through the Heritage Lottery Fund, 1996

Exhibition History

Chelsea, 1947, no.26; Sheffield, 1952, no.35; London, 1958a, no.154; Ottawa, 1961, no.46; London, 1997, no.77


Oppé, 1957–59, p.97, no.2031

About this Work

Study of Trees in a Park

It is not known where this rapidly executed sketch was made, though, unlike the potentially comparable study showing a scene in Hyde Park drawn at about the same time, around 1800–1801 (TG1744), it appears to have been painted on the country estate of a wealthy patron, as it includes signs of deer and sheep grazing under the boughs of the trees. Anne Lyles has suggested that this might have been at Cassiobury, the seat of George Capel-Coningsby, 5th Earl of Essex (1757–1839), in Hertfordshire. However, the watercolour that was identified as showing a sawmill in Cassiobury Park (TG1571), turns out to depict a scene in Ashtead Park and in any case there is nothing in the image that allows us to be specific about its location and it might more properly be termed a tree study (Lyles and Hamlyn, 1997, p.188). These are rare in Girtin’s work, and the few examples that spring to mind tend to date from the early part of his career (TG0174 and TG0285). However, as the dramatist Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809) noted when the artist was sketching in the environs of Paris, Girtin thought that trees if they did ‘not form masses’ might ‘individually … have been a study’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.498).1 Moreover, there are a number of later small sketches of trees that were worked in the studio, presumably to cater for the market in his studies (TG1770 and TG1771). This work is likely to have been executed on the spot, however, and its status is confirmed by the signature to the right, which appears to be genuine. This is crucial, because in many ways the handling of such a narrow range of tones, and the way in which they interact with the prominent pencil work, is untypical of Girtin’s sketches, or at least the majority, as in most cases an architectural subject determines a different approach. Indeed, the way that the foliage of the trees is depicted as broad masses of no more than two tones, occasionally relieved by hatching using a soft piece of graphite, would be difficult to associate with the artist without the presence of a signature, as a comparison with a tree study by John Monro (1801–80), for instance, all too clearly indicates (see figure 1).

(?) 1801

Trees in Hyde Park


1800 - 1801

The Sawmill, Cassiobury Park


1794 - 1795

A View in Windsor Great Park with Deer


(?) 1795

An Unidentified Landscape with a Figure Seated on a Gate under a Tree


1800 - 1801

A Torrent by a Clump of Trees


1800 - 1801

A Wooded Landscape


by Greg Smith


  1. 1 Holcroft’s unique eye-witness account of Girtin at work during the excursions they undertook in and around Paris in the early spring of 1802 is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 1).

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