In this vibrant rendering of a bustling London street, Girtin combines lively detail with loose passages of generalized brushwork. The work stands at the midpoint of the artist's tragically short career, balanced between his early achievements as a topographical watercolorist and the masterly abstracted landscapes to come. Working outdoors, in the street where he lived, the twenty-year old artist laid in the perspective in graphite. He then added shadows in gray wash, and finally applied layers of color, together with the figures and details. The foreground is characterized by a dramatic shift from deep shadow, at left, to red brick facades glowing in the late afternoon sun, at right. Wren's magnificent dome soars above all, a grand classical embodiment of the sublimity toward which the artist aspired. The carts, horses, street-sweeper, inquisitive dog, little lamplighter, and strolling pedestrians represent the native picturesque out of which Girtin's genius grew.
Inscription: Inscribed "Elerton" (or "Elekton") on shop sign at middle right
William Dorrell, in 1877; Sir Walter Prideaux; Walter T. Prideaux; on loan to Southampton Art Gallery, until 1997; Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London), in 1997; Private Collection, United States; Vendor: Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. (London)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Drawings and Prints: Selections from the Permanent Collection," January 27, 2003–April 28, 2003.
Thomas Girtin and David Loshak, The Art of Thomas Girtin (London: A. and C. Black, 1954), cat. no. 118 (ii), 149-150.
Exhibition of Works by Thomas Girtin. Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1875, cat. no. 133.
Winter Exhibition of Drawings by the Old Masters and Water-Colour Drawings by Deceased Artists of the British School. Exh. cat. Grosvenor Gallery, London, 1877-1878, cat. no. 320.
Catalogue of a Collection of Early Drawings and Pictures of London. Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1919, cat. no. 111.
Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. Loan Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings by Thomas Girtin. London, 1953, cat. no. 41, ill.
Thomas Girtin, David Loshak The Art of Thomas Girtin. London, 1954, cat. no. 118 (ii), pp. 149-150.
Thomas Agnew & Sons, Ltd. English Watercolours, Drawings and Small Oil Paintings: Agnew's 128th Annual Exhibition, Presented by Andrew Wyld.. 1st-30th March, 2001, cat. no. 34, ill.
Greg Smith , et al. Thomas Girtin: The Art of Watercolor. Exh. cat. Tate Britain, London, 2002, cat. no. 75, 101.
Carmen C. Bambach, Elizabeth E. Barker, Colta Ives, Nadine Orenstein, Michiel C. Plomp, Perrin Stein "Recent Acquisitions, A Selection: 2002-2003." The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Vol. 61, no. 2, Autumn 2003, p. 27, ill.