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Works Thomas Girtin

York: The Layerthorpe Bridge and Postern

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1653: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), York: The Layerthorpe Bridge and Postern, 1797–98, watercolour on laid paper, 31.8 × 49.5 cm, 12 ½ × 19 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • York: The Layerthorpe Bridge and Postern
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper
31.8 × 49.5 cm, 12 ½ × 19 ½ in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Yorkshire View

York: The Layerthorpe Bridge and Postern (TG1652)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Christie's, 10 June 1955, lot 54 as 'Buildings with Bridge and Figures'; bought by 'Bowden', £131 5s; David J. McLennan; his sale, Sotheby's, 15 July 1959, lot 73; bought by 'Spink's', £48; Spink & Son Ltd, London; G. Pilcher, Horsham

About this Work

This version of a composition that is familiar from a fine, if faded, watercolour in the collection of The Whitworth, Manchester (TG1652), has not been seen since it appeared at auction in 1959, and it is known only from a black and white photograph. On first sight, it would appear to be a copy of the watercolour in the Whitworth, and it is not noticeably superior in quality to the replica that was probably produced by Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835) (see TG1652 figure 1), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. There is one tiny detail, however, that suggests that we might be looking at something rather more interesting. At the centre of the composition is the top half of a rider, who is disappearing over the brow of the bridge as he enters the postern, or gatehouse. Significantly, the figure is absent in both the copy of Girtin’s watercolour (see TG1652 figure 1) and the mezzotint (see print after TG1652), whilst the work in the collection of the Whitworth has a disturbed area corresponding exactly to the form of the rider, where the artist appears to have scratched out the original design and worked over the paper without entirely effacing the original trace. Since it is difficult to see how or why a copyist would incorporate such a barely visible change of mind into their version, I have, with some residual doubts about the quality of the watercolour, concluded that it is by Girtin and await the reappearance of the work to finally confirm the attribution. Might it be that the work dates from closer to 1796, when the original sketch must have been made, and could that also explain Girtin’s change of mind in what would therefore have been the later version?

Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak note that ‘Copies by other hands are known of the composition’, though they do not say whether this work was one of them (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.201). One of the copies, titled ‘The Ouse Bridge, Morpeth’, was certainly known to Thomas Girtin, who pronounced it an inferior copy (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 8 November 1946, lot 76; Christie’s, 19 October 1971, lot 160; Girtin Archive, 40A).

1800 - 1801

York: The Layerthorpe Bridge and Postern


1800 - 1801

York: The Layerthorpe Bridge and Postern


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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