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Works Thomas Girtin

Turver’s Farm, Radwinter

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1415: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Turver's Farm, Radwinter, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 31.5 × 41.1 cm, 12 ⅜ × 16 ⅛ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.13).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Turver’s Farm, Radwinter
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
31.5 × 41.1 cm, 12 ⅜ × 16 ⅛ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Essex View; Picturesque Vernacular

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
329ii as '1799'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.48; Davies, 1924, pl.33; Johnson, 1932, p.146

About this Work

This watercolour is one of two versions of a composition showing a picturesque roadside farm owned by Girtin’s father-in-law, Phineas Borrett (1756–1843) (the other being TG1414). 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 at 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. 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’ as late as 1864, presumably having inherited it from either his mother, Mary Ann Girtin (1781–1843), or his grandfather (Chelmsford Chronicle, 6 May 1864).

None of this would have been apparent to the earliest owner of this version, however, as the view contains no clues to suggest that it was anything other than one of the numerous imaginary picturesque cottage scenes that flooded the market at the turn of the century. Indeed, the surprising thing is that the rather tumbledown thatched buildings, hardly a good advert for the social consciousness of a London-based landlord, should have been deemed suited to a commission in the first place. Sold simply as a picturesque cottage scene, with no hint of its location or personal associations, this view worked in a very different way, attracting custom as a vivid demonstration of the full range of Girtin’s bravura brushwork. The visual impact that a stock composition of thatched cottages surrounded by trees at the bend of a road could display when treated by a skilled artist is, fortunately, still apparent, since the work has retained much of its original colour, certainly in comparison with the sadly faded condition of the other version. Thus, although the tree to the left has faded to a warm brown and there has been some flattening out in the vegetation, Girtin’s choice of more stable blue and yellow pigments has resulted in a scene that appears bold and dashing, rather than coarse and slapdash. The effect resembles a number of compositions that he executed during his time in Paris in 1801–2 (such as TG1913 and TG1918), some of which were copied from prints by Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55), and the similarity in the palette, in particular, suggests to me a later date for this watercolour.

(?) 1799

Turver’s Farm, Wimbish


(?) 1799

Pinckney’s Farm, Radwinter


(?) 1799

A Mill in Essex



A Wooded River in an Extensive Landscape



A Village Scene


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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