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Works Thomas Girtin

Trees in Hyde Park

(?) 1801

Primary Image: TG1744: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Trees in Hyde Park, (?) 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 26.2 × 45.3 cm, 10 ¼ × 17 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1204).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Trees in Hyde Park
(?) 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
26.2 × 45.3 cm, 10 ¼ × 17 ⅞ in
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
London and Environs; Trees and Woods

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
401 as '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); 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

Cambridge, 1920, no.42; London, 1962a, no.157; New Haven, 1986a, no.81

About this Work

A Horseman Riding in a Wooded Landscape

Given the slight nature of this sketch, it is surprising that we can be so specific about the subject, for, as Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak rightly noted, the drawing shows a row of trees near ‘Hyde Park Corner, lining the “King’s New Road to Kensington”’ with the ‘conduit head’ showing up behind the railings (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.189). Similar views of the park that include the conduits that supplied water from its springs were made by Michael Rooker (1746–1801) (see figure 1) and by Girtin’s neighbour in nearby St George’s Row, Paul Sandby (c.1730–1809) (see TG1745 figure 1). Girtin moved into the terrace soon after his marriage, sometime early in 1801, and this drawing was presumably made at this time rather than in 1800, as Girtin and Loshak suggested, being no more than a minute’s walk away from his home. As another sketch by Sandby shows, the scene might even have been visible from Girtin’s windows (see TG1745 figure 2). This, I suspect, is a more reliable indication of the work’s date than any stylistic evidence that might be adduced from the sheet, for there is very little by the artist with which to compare this almost monochrome sketch; the drawing, it must be stressed, was painted in a couple of dull tints, rather than being faded. The signed study Trees in a Park (TG1588) is perhaps comparable, though it probably depicts the country park of a wealthy patron rather than a London scene. This is important, because although Girtin and Loshak claimed that the view of Hyde Park passed directly from the artist to his son, Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74), and thereafter by descent, thereby offering a guarantee of its authenticity, they provided no evidence to substantiate their assertion. It is possible that the sketch was retained by the family for its personal associations and that as a result it did not appear in the artist’s posthumous sale at Christie’s in June 1803, but the majority of Thomas Calvert’s works by his father appear to have been acquired by purchase later. Therefore, the signature on Trees in a Park is actually the only evidence of authenticity that we have for the uncharacteristic way the artist depicts the foliage of the trees in both works as broad masses of no more than two tones, occasionally relieved by some hatching.

Girtin and Loshak were surprisingly reticent on the question of the status of this work as an on-the-spot study, calling it simply a ‘Water-Colour Sketch’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.189). Again, there is little to compare the work with, as sketching in monochrome had ceased to be part of Girtin’s practice five or so years previously, but I cannot think of any other explanation for such a summary and rapidly handled execution. It may be that the presence of a number of the artist’s fingerprints across the sheet clinches the argument that the drawing was made from life, a few metres away from his studio.

1800 - 1801

Trees in a Park


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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