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Works Thomas Girtin

A Circular Temple, Said to Be in Harewood Park

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1544: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Circular Temple, Said to Be in Harewood Park, 1799–1800, graphite, watercolour, bodycolour and black chalk on laid paper, 21.4 × 17.7 cm, 8 ⅜ × 7 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1193).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Circular Temple, Said to Be in Harewood Park
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour and black chalk on laid paper
21.4 × 17.7 cm, 8 ⅜ × 7 in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
The Landscape Park; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
269 as 'Temple in Harewood Park ... Water-Colour Sketch'; '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); 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

Cambridge, 1920, no.31 as ’Temple in Harewood Garden’; Leeds, 1937, no.16; Sheffield, 1953, no.50; Leeds, 1958, no.45; London, 1962a, no.145; New Haven, 1979, no.75; New Haven, 1986a, no.65; Harewood, 1999, no.8


Binyon, 1900, p.20; Davies, 1924, pl.18; Hardie, 1934, p.5; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.12; YCBA Online as 'A Temple in Harewood Park' (Accessed 18/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a circular garden temple viewed through trees is often said to show a building in Harewood Park, though both David Hill and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, the latter of whom were cataloguers of Girtin’s work, agreed that the temple must have been demolished long ago (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.170–71; Hill, 1999, p.19). Certainly, no building in the great park laid out by Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown (1716–83) for the Lascelles family fits the description of the building shown here. I suspect that the work may either depict a structure in another unidentified park or perhaps, more likely, be an invention of the artist working, as Martin Hardie has suggested, in the style of Thomas Gainsborough (Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.12). The Harewood connection is further undermined by the provenance of the work, which, according to Girtin and Loshak, came direct to Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74) from his father, and there is no evidence either that the work was ever owned by a member of the Lascelles family or, more significantly, that it was commissioned by the artist’s great patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814). For that reason, I am sceptical about Hill’s suggestion that, given Lascelles is known to have paid for drawing lessons from Girtin, this work was possibly ‘made in the context of this instruction’ (Hill, 1999, p.19). It seems to me that the diligent architectural study of the southern facade of Harewood House (TG1546) is a more likely candidate to be an example of Girtin’s teaching practice. Indeed, I would go further to suggest that the association of this scene with Harewood reflects a overemphasis on the importance of the Lascelles connection. Girtin’s stay at Harewood in 1800 is documented, and there is strong circumstantial evidence for an extended visit in 1799, but that does not warrant the speculative identification of every park scene of roughly the right date as belonging to this house, as has tended to happen over the years with A Landscape with a Statue, for example (TG1543). 

All of this is complicated by the fact that the work has faded badly, so that what appears to be an uncharacteristic use of black chalk to model the foliage has become too prominent. The work’s condition became an important issue for Tom Girtin (1913–94), who sold the work to Paul Mellon (1907–99) in 1970, after which, according to the artist’s descendant, it was ‘ruined by treatment’ in the Yale Center for British Art’s conservation studio (Girtin Archive, 31). He thought that a semi-circular scar in the paper was made more visible by their actions. However, though the Girtin family included generations of diligent historians, they were no more than keen amateurs, and there is no question that the Center has been anything other than an exemplary guardian of Girtin’s works.

1799 - 1800

A Close View of Harewood House, from the South East


1799 - 1800

A Landscape with a Statue


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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