Part of the Tuileries
37.7 cm x 32 cm (14 13/16 in. x 12 5/8 in.)
(London, 1775 - 1802, London)
Medium and Support:
Graphite and watercolor on off-white antique laid paper
Blanton Museum of Art, The University of Texas at Austin, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Thune, 1982
Thomas Girtin’s view of the Tuileries belongs to the English tradition of topographical watercolor, of which the Blanton Museum has numerous examples by such artists as J. M. W. Turner, John Constable, and Thomas and William Daniell. Turner, in fact, who once worked with Girtin copying drawings for their patron Dr. Monro, admired his friend’s talent, commenting, “If Tom Girtin had lived, I should have starved.”
Girtin visited Paris in 1801–1802 and made a series of etchings of the city, published the year after his death as A Selection of Twenty of the Most Picturesque Views in Paris and Its Environs. The museum’s drawing may have been a preliminary study for one of these views that was never executed, or it may have been part of an abandoned plan to create a large panoramic painting of the city of Paris to display in London. The watercolor has been cut down from a larger composition and pieced back together at the left, with the two sections differently colored to suggest full daylight and twilight. It is his innovative handling of the watercolor medium that earned Girtin not only Turner’s admiration but also a place in the history of landscape painting in England. He is said to have revolutionized watercolor painting by his use of broadly applied, strong washes, which freed the medium from its dependence on line drawing.