This is one of the most famous of English watercolours, partly because it was venerated by Turner.

Thomas Girtin, 'The White House at Chelsea' 1800
Thomas Girtin
The White House at Chelsea 1800
Watercolour on paper
support: 298 x 514 mm
Bequeathed by Mrs Ada Montefiore 1933

The White House was not publicly exhibited until the 1820s, when it was praised for its ‘simple means’. The bare, off-white paper of the gable-end is further touched with yellow, so the perceived ‘whiteness’ of the house contrasts with its blue-grey surroundings. The solemn silhouettes may have been inspired by Rembrandt’s Mill 1645–8 (National Gallery of Art, Washington DC), which Girtin knew, but his work was generally less introspective.

Chelsea Old Church appears across Battersea Bridge towards the right, while the house is actually on the opposite bank of the Thames along Chelsea reach, later the site of Battersea Park; tower blocks now terminate the view westwards. Turner’s occasional introduction of a white, reflected motif in his own work may have been a tribute to his short-lived contemporary and friend.



A delight..folds of shade hold no bars,and brave shapes of shade not insipid hold sway in transluscent colour. Way still to go! I paint only oil,acrylic.So good to enjoy.. Nigel R