Press Release

Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolour

Tate Britain  Linbury Galleries
4 July – 29 September 2002

On 2 July, Tate Britain will open an exhibition of the work of Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), one of Britain’s greatest landscape painters. In a tragically short career, he produced a string of powerful watercolours, which helped establish a British School of watercolour painting and provided one of the cornerstones of Romantic landscape imagery.

This exhibition, scheduled to coincide with the bicentenary year of Girtin’s death, is the first comprehensive overview of his career for twenty-five years, bringing together the most outstanding examples of his art. It also offers a revaluation of the artist’s achievements in light of exciting recent developments in the study of landscape painting and watercolour practice.

The exhibition broadens the traditional emphasis in watercolour shows to encompass a wide-ranging analysis of the artist’s working methods and the materials he employed, the way in which his works were exhibited, sold and received, as well as the artist’s relations with patrons, the print trade, and fellow professional artists. These aspects and the artist’s work are examined in a series of themed sections. The work of a number of key contemporaries and followers, including Turner, is included in order to establish Girtin’s position within the broader picture of watercolour practice during a key period in the development of the medium.

In 1802, Girtin exhibited Eidometropolis, a monumental panorama of London that dazzled his contemporaries. Sadly, it did not survive, but a contemporary photographic panorama of London has been made for this exhibition, against which Girtin’s sketches for Eidometropolis will be shown. This illustrates powerfully how the London cityscape has changed and it is hoped that it will recreate something of the wonder felt by the original audience for Girtin’s panorama.

The exhibition includes over two hundred works, including some one hundred and sixty by Girtin. These come from public and private collections in the UK with an important group coming from America.

The exhibition is co-curated by Greg Smith and Anne Lyles. Greg Smith is a leading expert in the field of the history of watercolours, and author of The Business of Watercolour: A Guide to the Archives of the Royal Watercolour Society (1997) and The Emergence of the Professional Watercolourist: Contentions and Alliances in the Artistic Domain (2002). Anne Lyles is a Collections Curator at Tate. The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue by Greg Smith, with contributions by Anne Lyles, Peter Bower and Susan Morris. A Study Day, Girtin versus Turner: Watercolour Revolutionaries 1775 1802 will take place on Saturday 14 September, 10.30 - 17.00. £25 (£20 concessions). Call Tate Ticketing on 020 7887 8888 to book, or for more information on this and other Tate events.

Open every day 10.00-17.40 Last admission 17.00