For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin

Turver’s Farm, Radwinter

(?) 1799

Primary Image: TG1414: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Turver's Farm, Radwinter, (?) 1799, graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 30.2 × 41.6 cm, 11 ⅞ × 16 ⅜ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1201).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Turver’s Farm, Radwinter
(?) 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
30.2 × 41.6 cm, 11 ⅞ × 16 ⅜ in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Essex View; Picturesque Vernacular

Turver’s Farm, Wimbish (TG1415)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Phineas Borrett (1756–1843); possibly by descent to Mary Ann Girtin (née Borrett) (1781–1843) and Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to 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.31 as 'Turner's Farm, Wimbish, Essex'; New Haven, 1986a, no.75


Davies, 1924, pl.32

About this Work

This watercolour, one of two versions of a composition showing a picturesque roadside farm (the other being TG1415), was painted for Girtin’s father-in-law, Phineas Borrett (1756–1843). He was a prosperous London goldsmith who invested in property in Essex, buying Turver’s Farm in Radwinter as well as the nearby Pinkney’s Farm in Wimbish (TG1413), and he appears to have commissioned views of both from Girtin around 1799. This presumably required a visit from the artist to Essex to record the subjects, and, though no sketches have survived, there is a series of other views from around this date, including A Mill in Essex (TG1416), which suggests that what appear to be generic picturesque scenes are based on actual sites. From a time when Girtin was producing both country-house views for wealthy patrons and images of picturesque vernacular buildings for the open market, these watercolours are a unique hybrid that held a close personal association for the Girtin family, who continued to own the properties well into the nineteenth century. The artist’s son, Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74), sold the lease to this ‘superior LITTLE FARM ... well situated by the side of the road near the village of Radwinter’ in 1864, presumably having inherited it from either his mother, Mary Ann Girtin (1781–1843), or his grandfather (Chelmsford Chronicle, 6 May 1864). This too was no doubt how Thomas Calvert came to possess this work and a pair of other views of Borrett’s Essex properties (TG1452 and TG1413), and the watercolours were not, as Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak thought, inherited from his father’s studio (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.179). Indeed, the personal, family associations of these works may have gone even further, since the commission from Borrett was presumably the occasion of the artist’s first meeting with his future wife, Mary Ann; Girtin, it must be remembered, married the daughter of a prosperous London-based patron.

The work is badly faded, with large areas of green foliage having degraded to an overly dominant brown. No doubt the watercolour has been exhibited in a strong light, and this has facilitated the fading process, but fundamentally it was Girtin’s choice of fugitive pigments used in multiple thin washes that caused the problem. Just two unstable pigments, probably blue indigo and yellow gamboge, would have been enough to account for the drastic deterioration seen here, though the artist did use another blue, perhaps ultramarine, for the sky. This has remained unaffected, in comparison with the trees and the house, which, in consequence, appear to be unfinished and sloppily produced. Unusually for the artist, Girtin used bodycolour for part of the figures (presumably Borrett’s tenants) rather than leaving a reserved space to be subsequently worked up in watercolour. This indicates a last-minute change of mind, since the road surface shows through the figures in areas where the bodycolour is not dominant; in other words, they were added last of all, without the careful preparation that was typically the case. Another area of green bodycolour was used for highlights in the tree to the right. The fading of the work has also revealed a ruled pencil line two centimetres from the bottom, which might indicate that the artist originally had in mind a slightly more panoramic composition.

1799 - 1800

Turver’s Farm, Wimbish


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


(?) 1799

A Mill in Essex


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.