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Works Thomas Girtin

Trees near a Lake or River, at Twilight

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0790: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Trees near a Lake or River, at Twilight, 1795–96, watercolour on a laminate of wove paper, 7.6 × 11.5 cm, 3 × 4 ½ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 19 (D36646).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Trees near a Lake or River, at Twilight
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Watercolour on a laminate of wove paper
7.6 × 11.5 cm, 3 × 4 ½ in
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10' by 'Turner'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.818f


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1244 as 'River scene ... unfinished' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This informal sketch is one of twenty or so small watercolours bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of his and Girtin’s patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), which are now part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The watercolours, all painted on a support measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were executed around 1795–96 after a set of outline drawings that Girtin copied from sketches of antiquarian subjects made by his first significant patron, the amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), or landscapes by his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). This work differs from the bulk of the watercolours in this group in two significant ways, suggesting that it was something of an experiment. Firstly, the support Girtin uses is a laminate of wove papers, rather than the thin laid card used elsewhere, though it is the same size. And, secondly, the work is a sketch in the more generally accepted sense; in other words, it is an unfinished tryout, rather than being a studio confection made from an outline drawing that seeks to create the impression that it was actually produced on the spot, as with views such as Rochester Cathedral, from the North East (TG0363). Therefore, in contrast to the group of cards from the Monro collection, which numbered more than sixty in all (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83), this watercolour was not made on commission. As to whether or not it was produced from an intermediary pencil outline, as with the other small watercolours, there is not enough topographical detail to determine the issue, but the subject is twilight rather than a specific location, and in this too the work differs from the rest of the group. It is possible, therefore, that its only connection with the Turner Bequest cards, other than their shared provenance, is its unusual compact scale.

The paper is discoloured as a result of excessive exposure to light whilst on long-term exhibition. The differently toned areas (top, left and right) were protected by an earlier mount.

1795 - 1796

Rochester Cathedral, from the North East, with the Castle Beyond


by Greg Smith

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