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 after Herman van Swanevelt

A Wooded River in an Extensive Landscape


Primary Image: TG1913: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55), A Wooded River in an Extensive Landscape, 1801, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 32 × 53.3 cm, 12 ⅝ × 21 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55), etching, Landscape with Sunset, 1653, 17.8 × 27 cm, 7 × 10 ⅝ in. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam (RP-P-OB-60.952).

Photo courtesy of Rijksmuseum (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Herman van Swanevelt (1603-1655)
  • A Wooded River in an Extensive Landscape
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
32 × 53.3 cm, 12 ⅝ × 21 in

‘Girtin 1801 Paris’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Foreign Master
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
457 as 'Romantic Landscape'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2010


Leggatt Brothers, London; bought by H. L. Fison, 1927; his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 6 November 1959, lot 1; bought by Leggatt Brothers, London, £1,470; ... Christie’s, 8 December 2010, lot 285, £8,750, as 'An Angler by a Wooded River in an Extensive Landscape'

Exhibition History

South London Art Gallery, 1951, no.39; Leggatt Brothers, 1956, no.11


Davies, 1928, p.221

About this Work

This is one of three landscapes that Girtin produced in the first month of his stay in Paris from etchings by the seventeenth-century Dutch landscape artist Herman van Swanevelt (1603–55) (the others being TG1914 and TG1915). Girtin arrived in the French capital at the end of November 1801 and presumably acquired the etchings almost immediately, as he inscribed each of the watercolours ‘Girtin Paris 1801’. Why Girtin chose to mark his arrival in France by copying etchings of imaginary classical landscapes is far from clear, though he had by this date probably already made a number of copies after prints by earlier artists, such as Marco Ricci (1676–1730) (including TG1916). Girtin had travelled to France with his London panorama, hoping to put it on display, and it may be that with no other plans in mind – the idea for a set of prints of Paris views came later – he turned to a secondary source for inspiration, having been disappointed by the potential of French scenery as a subject. As he later noted in a conversation with Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809), the ‘landscapes of France’ were ‘spotty, naked, having no hedges and trees … with few grand masses, ragged broken lines, little verdure, and a prevailing grey tone’ – altogether unsuited to an artist like Girtin, in other words (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.492).1

Swanevelt’s etching Landscape with Sunset (see the source image above) provided everything the scenery of northern France lacked, though Girtin still set about simplifying the composition. The watercolour, which conforms to one of the standard sizes of his late works, roughly 30.5 × 53.3 cm (12 × 21 in), is larger than the print, which measures 17.8 × 27.6 cm (7 × 10 ⅞ in), but the artist still reduced the number of figures and opened up the landscape, creating a lighter and more picturesque scene in consequence. Even more significantly, Girtin translated the tones of the etching into an uncharacteristically colourful palette, which, in its unfaded condition, provides a startling contrast with so many of the more muted works of his maturity. Could it be that Girtin travelled without pigments and had to change his palette, using only what he could obtain in the French capital? 


A River Scene with a Castle on a Cliff



A Wooded Landscape, with a Hermit


1800 - 1801

An Italianate Landscape with Two Monks


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).

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.