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

Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1536: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills, 1799–1800, graphite on laid paper, 11.4 × 18.4 cm, 4 ½ × 7 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Agnew's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper
11.4 × 18.4 cm, 4 ½ × 7 ¼ in
Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
River Scenery; Wind and Water Mills; Yorkshire View

Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills (TG1643)
Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills (TG1644)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Arthur Henry Holland-Hibbert, 3rd Viscount Knutsford (1855–1935); his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 11 April 1935, lot 66, one of three; bought by Tancred Borenius for Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1882–1947), £7; then by descent to George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood (1923–2011); his sale, Christie’s, 13 July 1965, lot 166; bought by 'Agnew', 75 gns; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.5449)

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1966, no.198, £175; Agnew’s, 1967, no.19; Agnew’s, 1968, no.34


Smith, 2002a, p.58

About this Work

This simple outline drawing of the view through two arches of the bridge over the river Wharfe at Wetherby, in Yorkshire, was used by Girtin as the basis for two almost identical studio watercolours depicting the mills that were used to grind corn and rape at this date (TG1643 and TG1644). These were probably painted in 1800, and the sketch itself appears to have been executed in the previous year, when the artist based himself at the home of his patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) at Harewood House. From here, Girtin undertook a number of excursions to make studies of local scenes, many of which were subsequently realised as commissions for Lascelles, including some of his most important works. Many of the drawings Girtin executed in 1799 appear to have come from a book that was made up from sheets of wove paper that measure 4 ½ in (11.4 cm) in height. Although this drawing is on a laid paper, the size is the same, and it may have been removed from the same source. As the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, it is unlikely that such a book was produced commercially, and it may be that the artist himself assembled sheets of paper into a convenient gathering, just as he seems to have done with the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625), which also includes a number of different papers (Bower, 2002, p.141). 

Overlaying images of the finished watercolours and the on-the-spot sketch produced by Girtin at Wetherby illustrates how closely the artist followed his original thoughts. He cut the composition to the left and extended the arch opening to the right, making visible more of the mills that bordered the Wharfe, but otherwise, the watercolours follow the pencil outline down to repeating the same figures washing clothes in the river. It is a useful reminder that in addition to recording the architectural and landscape details of a scene, Girtin’s on-the-spot sketches were carefully composed with a finished watercolour generally in mind.

(?) 1800

Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills


(?) 1800

Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills


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.