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Works Thomas Girtin

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


Primary Image: TG1651: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), York: The New Walk on the Banks of the River Ouse, 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 26.8 × 53.1 cm, 10 ½ × 20 ⅞ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1091-1884).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • York: The New Walk on the Banks of the River Ouse
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
26.8 × 53.1 cm, 10 ½ × 20 ⅞ in

‘Girtin 1801’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Panoramic Format; River Scenery; Yorkshire View

York: The New Walk on the Banks of the Ouse (TG1046)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
247ii as 'The New Walk, York (called formerly The Mayor's Walk)'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2017


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911) (lent to London, 1875); by a settlement to his sister, Julia Hog Cooper (née Girtin) (1839–1904); her sale, Davis, Castleton, Sherborne, 2 December 1884, lot 53 as '"Mayors Walk Ouse Bridge" York'; bought by the Museum

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.67 as'The Mayor's Walk, Ouse Bridge York'; Bristol, 1906, no.62; Chiba, 2002, no.19


Monkhouse, 1890, p.50; Davies, 1924, pl.85; V&A, 1927, p.231 as 'The Mayor's Walk on the Banks of the Ouse, York'; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.151

About this Work

This is the later of two versions of the view upstream from the west bank of the river Ouse in York that Girtin must originally have sketched on the trip to the northern counties and the Scottish Borders that he undertook in 1796 (the other being TG1046). The watercolour, dated 1801, is therefore one of only a handful of cases where the artist returned to a sketch made on the trip five years previously to create a full-size watercolour for sale on the open market. These include another view of York, showing the minster from the south east, that is dated 1800 (TG1656), the same year as The Village of Jedburgh (TG1725), which likewise reprises an earlier composition. It seems that Girtin, in this case, turned to an earlier sketch as an alternative to the close-up view of the Ouse Bridge that he had painted in 1800 (TG1649), with the New Walk, the tree-lined fashionable promenade route, providing the sixteenth-century bridge with a contrasting semi-rural setting. 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 sailing boat adding a jaunty note to the sunny scene and figures seen strolling under the shade of the trees.

The watercolour is not one of Girtin’s most memorable efforts, however, though how much of that is down to its condition, which has seen differential fading, is not altogether clear. Thus, the blue used for the sky, presumably ultramarine, has remained, whilst the pigment used to mix the tone for the green foliage and the grey of the clouds has been lost, leaving an overly warm residue lacking in depth. All of this is in contrast to the earlier version of the composition, which is actually in much better condition. It may be that it was treated more carefully and kept out of strong light, but the chances are that it was Girtin’s increasing use of fugitive pigments after 1796–97, employed in multiple thin washes, that caused the problem. Just two unstable pigments, probably blue indigo and yellow gamboge, if used exclusively for the sky’s reflection in the water, the greens of the vegetation and the greys of the clouds, might have been enough to account for much of the deterioration seen in the 1801 watercolour. Despite this, there is no doubt about the attribution of the work to the artist. The prominent date and signature are certainly authentic, and the way that it is missing its lower part is typical of a work that was finished by the artist on its original mount, only for part of the inscription to be lost when the backing was later removed. Changes in the condition of the watercolour and its presentation may complicate comparisons between the two versions of the composition, but there is one difference that can be calculated with some precision. The already slightly panoramic proportions of the earlier version have thus been further extended in this work. This has been achieved by adding to the composition to the left and bringing the far bank closer by minimising the extent of the foreground, losing the prominent figure group in the process. Using works that can be securely dated, it can be shown that Girtin steadily increased the average lateral extent of his compositions year on year, and, as this work demonstrates, he did this by introducing subtle changes to his compositions that make the later works appear more natural, even though their proportions are wider.

1796 - 1797

York: The New Walk on the Banks of the Ouse



York Minster from the South East, Layerthorpe Bridge and Postern to the Right



The Village of Jedburgh



The Ouse Bridge, York


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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