- Museum number
Cayne Waterfall, North Wales; a cascade pouring down a broken slope of rock in to a pool at the right, from which the water comes foaming among large stones into the foreground, trees and bushes scattered about the slopes. c.1798
Watercolour and reed pen, over graphite, on buff paper
- Production date
- 1798 (circa)
Height: 504 millimetres
Width: 605 millimetres
- Curator's comments
- The Cayne waterfall, between Ffestiniog and Dolgellau, was a favourite stopping-off point for visitors to North Wales, and attracted artists and writers alike. In 1798, the year Girtin made this large study, an oil of the falls by Francis Towne had been exhibited at the Royal Academy.
The sheet is unfinished, though the central area, with the great cascade of water crashing and tumbling over the rocks, is studied in great detail. It was most probably painted on the spot, and shows Girtin recording only as much as he needed to complete the image later. Despite the unusually large scale of the paper for an open-air study, he is unlikely to have intended to carry on and work up a finished watercolour on this sheet. Even so, a completed, signed, version of the subject is virtually identical in size (501x605mm; G&L 322ii, Birmingham City Art Gallery; see 'English watercolours and drawings: the J. Leslie Wright Bequest', Birmingham 1980, cat.34).
Ruskin wrote of this watercolour: "there is perhaps no greater marvel of artistic practice and finely accurate intention existing, in a simple kind, greater than the study of Yorkshire waterfall, by Girtin, ...in which every sparkle, ripple and current is left in frank light by the steady pencil which is at the same instant, and with the same touch, drawing the forms of the dark congeries of the chanelled rocks, while around them it disperses the glitter of their spray" (quoted in L. Binyon, Thomas Girtin, 1900, p. 23).
A copy of the watercolour by James Ward is also in the Department (1885-6-13-80).
The paper is a Dutch off-white laid drawing cartridge paper.
References: M. Hardie, 'Water-colour painting in Britain', 1967, II, pl.4.
- Not on display
- Exhibition history
1975 Jan-Feb, Manchester, Whitworth AG, 'Watercolours by Thomas Girtin', no.59
1975 Mar-Apr, London, V&A, 'Watercolours by Thomas Girtin', no.59
1985, BM, British Landscape Watercolours 1600-1860, no.77
1993 May-Sept, Trento, Museo di Arte Moderna, 'Romanticismo' no. 10
2002 July-Sep, London, Tate Britain, 'Thomas Girtin and the Art of Watercolour', no.120
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- Chambers Hall is said to have bought thirty-six Girtins from Mr Jackson, a timber merchant and builder who was the father-in-law of Girtin's brother John. Jackson had bought them from John Girtin.
W. Thornbury, 'The Life of J.M.W.Turner, RA', I, p. 101; J.L.Roget, 'The History of the 'Old Watercolour Society', I, p. 91; Girtin & Loshak, p. 47.
- Prints and Drawings
- Registration number