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Works Thomas Girtin

York: The New Walk on the Banks of the Ouse

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG1046: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), York: The New Walk on the Banks of the Ouse, 1796–97, graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 31.3 × 55.5 cm, 12 ⅜ × 21 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4906).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • York: The New Walk on the Banks of the Ouse
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
31.3 × 55.5 cm, 12 ⅜ × 21 ⅞ in

‘Girtin’ lower left, barely visible, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; River Scenery; Yorkshire View

York: The New Walk on the Banks of the River Ouse (TG1651)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
247i as 'The New Walk, York (called formerly The Mayor's Walk)'; '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Walter Benjamin Tiffin (1795–1877); bought from him by George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911), 16 August 1860, £12 (lent to London, 1862; London, 1873; 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

(?) Royal Academy, London, 1797, no.486, no.489, no.499 or no.726 as ’View of York’; London, 1862, no.813; London, 1873, no.338; London, 1875, no.89 as 'The Mayor's Walk, Ouse Bridge, York'; London, 1912, no.42; Cambridge, 1920, no.22; Agnew’s, 1921, no.42; London, 1928, no.Y14; Agnew’s, 1931, no.114; Leeds, 1937, no.25; Paris, 1938, no.33; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.75; Sheffield, 1953, no.47; London, 1962a, no.142; Reading, 1969, no.43; Victoria, 1971, no.17; New York, 1972, no.94; New Haven, 1977, no.118; New Haven, 1985, no.24; New Haven, 1986a, no.64


Grundy, 1921b, pp.66–67; Ushenko, 1979, pp.229–31, pp.297–99; Wilson and Mee, 2002, p.73; YCBA Online as 'The New Walk, York'

About this Work

This is the earliest of two versions of a view along the river in York looking towards the Ouse Bridge that Girtin presumably sketched on his first independent tour in 1796 (the other being TG1651). Sketches made on the trip to the northern counties and the Scottish Borders, together with the watercolours that Girtin developed from them, include the artist’s first essays in the panoramic mode, and it is intriguing to note that the format was initially employed to capture the experience of a built environment (TG1229) rather than the coastal views he encountered in the West Country in 1797. In this case, the extended river view gives a very different context to the image of the sixteenth-century Ouse Bridge than seen in the conventional scene depicted in The Ouse Bridge, York (TG1041), with the trees on both banks helping to create a rural setting far removed in spirit from the city’s commercial hub. The line of trees on the far bank was actually planted in 1730, and the New Walk, as it was known, was quickly established as a fashionable place for promenading. Framed thus, the bridge, with St William’s Chapel to the left and the tower of St Michael Spurriergate to the right, could with a little imagination be viewed as an eye-catcher on a lake in a gentleman’s landscape park, with the industrial and trading associations of the site minimised.

The watercolour, which is in excellent condition, is notable for a number of technical features that suggest that it may be earlier in date than the 1798 proposed by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, meaning that it might even be identified as one of the four works titled ‘View of York’ shown at the Royal Academy in 1797 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.167; Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1797, nos.486, 489, 499 and 726). Most noticeable of these is the extensive use of bodycolour in the foreground, firstly to give texture and secondly, when washed over with yellow, to form muted highlights in the general gloom. Girtin had hitherto only very occasionally employed pigment mixed with opaque lead white to create colour with ‘body’ and texture, but the production of ten works for the 1797 exhibition marked a shift in his practice, which, as with The Village of Jedburgh (TG1229), seems to have been designed to enhance the works’ impact on the wall. The other new technical feature that this watercolour has in common with the 1797 exhibits, such as the large view York Minster, from the South West (TG1047), is the extensive use of gum arabic in the foreground. This may have darkened somewhat, but its employment was in any case intended to deepen the tone of the foreground, thus ensuring that it does not distract, by virtue of its proximity to the viewer, from the overall focus of the image of a city blessed by nature. In the absence of the ideal foreground of flat water, gum arabic applied over colour washes creates a shaded effect, which means that the near figures do not dominate despite their size. This achieved, Girtin appears to have added the figure of a child using a transparent wash of colour. If this had been applied in opaque bodycolour, the blue of the river would not have shown through as it does.


York: The New Walk on the Banks of the River Ouse


1797 - 1798

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins


1796 - 1797

The Ouse Bridge, York


1797 - 1798

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins


1796 - 1797

York Minster, from the South West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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