Room 7: Later Watercolours

Thomas Girtin, ‘La Rue St Denis’ 1802
Thomas Girtin
La Rue St Denis 1802
Tate
Thomas Girtin, ‘The White House at Chelsea’ 1800
Thomas Girtin
The White House at Chelsea 1800
Tate

The works Girtin produced in the few years before he died show his ability to use natural effects to evoke a wide range of sentiment. Every aspect of his compositions, from the simplified forms, to the colouring, figures, lighting and imagery, contributes to the prevailing mood. The absolute stillness of Girtin’s view across the Thames, The White House at Chelsea (no.159), evokes a reflective mood, made more poignant by our awareness that the magical light effect illuminating the house will quickly fade. The twilight in St Vincent’s Rocks, Clifton, Bristol (no.172) dramatises the fantastic shapes of the cliffs. These works have been seen as intimations of the artist’s mortality, but the fact that Girtin found willing buyers for them suggests instead that they satisfied a widespread taste for the expression of emotion through landscape. Also shown in this room is Girtin’s view of La Rue St Denis, Paris (no.178), a design for the scenery of a pantomime performed at the Theatre Royal in Covent Garden. Sadly, Girtin did not live to see a performance, as he died a month before the opening in December 1802.