Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Picture of the Week No.17 - Thomas Girtin

It's time for the first Picture of the Week for April, but first apologies for leaving you stranded last week without your regular fix from the the Cecil Higgins Collection while I was off holidaying in Paris. Keeping Paris in mind, I thought this wonderful work by Thomas Girtin would be an appropriate choice, and more than makes up for that week off. Girtin was highly rated by his friend and contemporary J.M.W. Turner, who, when reflecting on Girtin's premature death at 27, said, 'If poor Tom Girtin had lived, I should have starved'. KP

THOMAS GIRTIN (1775-1802)The Palace of the Louvre, 1801-2

watercolour on paper, 37.4 ´ 31 cm
Accession no.: P.273

Also known in the past as The Pavilion de Maison at the Tuilleries and as View of the Tuileries with workman by a ruined house in the foreground.

This drawing seems to have been unknown before its appearance at Sotheby’s, which was after Girtin’s and Loshak’s catalogue of Girtin’s work was published in 1954. An almost identical watercolour was sold at Spink’s in 1982, dated 1801. On the reverse of Spink’s picture is the inscription, in Girtin’s hand: Part of the Tuilleries the Palace where Buonaparte resides the house of Lucien Buonaparte and the ruins of the house blown up by the infernal machine.

Girtin visited Paris in 1801, following the armistice with France, leaving his eight months’ pregnant wife in Islington (though he was spotted in London two days after his supposed departure, saying his farewells to his mistress). While there he produced his Twenty Views of the city and its environs, soft-ground etchings which rank amongst his finest works. These were published posthumously in 1803. Girtin was forced to sketch from a hackney carriage, in case of arrest as an English spy. The playwright Thomas Holcroft (1745-1809) met him in Paris and remarked: ‘His facility was great, and I was surprised at the dispatch with which he made his drawings’.

PROVENANCE: Sotheby’s 12 December 1958, lot 43b, purchased by Gallery, December 1958.
EXHIBITIONS: Primitives to Picasso, London, R.A., 1962, no.376; Watercolours and Drawings from The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, London, Thos. Agnew & Sons Ltd, 1962, no.18; English Watercolours from The Cecil Higgins Art Gallery, Bedford, Reading, Reading Museum and Art Gallery, 1965, no.20; Watercolours from Bedford, Norwich, Castle Museum, no.16, as The Palace of Louvre with workmen by a ruined house in the foreground.

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