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Works Thomas Girtin

A Village Scene


Primary Image: TG1918: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Village Scene, 1802, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 14 × 29.8 cm, 5 ½ × 11 ¾ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (1087-1884).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Village Scene
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
14 × 29.8 cm, 5 ½ × 11 ¾ in

‘Girtin 1802 – Paris’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Panoramic Format; Picturesque Vernacular; The Village; Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
483 as 'Street Scene Near Paris'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2018


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74), by 1852; then by descent to George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911) (lent to London, 1871; London, 1875); by a settlement to his sister, Julia Hog Cooper (née Girtin) (1839–1904); her sale, Davis, Castleton, Sherborne, 2 December 1884, lot 48 as 'A View near Paris'; bought by the Museum

Exhibition History

London, 1871, no.186 as ’Landscape. Street Scene in Environs of Paris’; London, 1875, no.78 as ’Environs of Paris’; Manchester, 1975, no.100 as ’Street Scene near Paris’; Munich, 1979, no.194; Marly, 1995, pl.17; London, 2002, no.131 as ’Village Scene, France’


Davies, 1924, p.27, pl.90; V&A, 1927, p.231; Mayne, 1949, p.98; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.85; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.8; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.151

About this Work

This village view has been known as ‘Street Scene, near Paris’, no doubt on the basis of the prominent inscription to the right of the extended scene: ‘Girtin 1802 – Paris’. However, the artist inscribed three watercolours after landscape etchings by Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55) in the same way (such as TG1914), so ‘Paris’ must refer to where it was painted, rather than identifying the subject, and I suspect that the work was marked in this way because it was sent back to England. The drawing almost certainly formed a pair with Buildings by a Road, with Passing Figures (TG1917), which corresponds in size, adopts a similar panoramic view with a comparable cropping of the subject, and is inscribed in the same manner. The figures in that work are arguably less British-looking in their appearance, but, even so, one must be very cautious when titling either subject as French. Thus, not only may both works be after prints – as, like the drawings after Swanevelt, they employ an unusually bright palette – but also if Girtin took sketches with him to France, they could equally represent English scenes. The latter idea is supported by Girtin’s complaint to Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809) about the lack of suitably picturesque landscapes in France (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.492); indeed, it is not out of the question that the artist even invented the scenes to make just this point.1 This, in turn, may account for the uncharacteristic employment of a panoramic format for the type of picturesque subject that elsewhere Girtin consistently treated using a more traditional compressed format, as in Turver’s Farm, Radwinter (TG1414). 

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as an off-white laid writing paper, made by an unknown French manufacturer, noting that it is quite different from the other French papers employed by the artist (Smith, 2002b, p.141; Bower, Report). All of the drawings that can be identified as having been painted in Paris appear to have been executed on paper either manufactured or purchased in France, and the artist does not seem to have brought a supply of his favourite cartridge paper with him. Girtin, it must be remembered, travelled to Paris in the hope of displaying his panorama of London, and only after failing in that project did he begin to look for French scenes to add to his repertoire of subjects (Smith, 2017–18, pp.28–30). One wonders whether the same might be true of Girtin’s pigments, and that he bought local substitutes for those he favoured in Britain. The bright accents of red, blue and green, which stand out in comparison with the faded area of the sky, suggest that this was the case, though this is all very unscientific as Girtin’s palette has never been the subject of the sort of informed analysis that Bower has brought to his papers. 


A River Scene with a Castle on a Cliff



Buildings by a Road, with Passing Figures


(?) 1799

Turver’s Farm, Wimbish


by Greg Smith


  1. 1 Holcroft’s unique eye-witness account of Girtin at work during the excursions they undertook in and around Paris in the early spring of 1802, published in the second volume of Travels from Hamburg, through Westphalia, Holland, and the Netherlands, to Paris, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1802 – Item 1).

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