St. Paul's Cathedral from St. Martin's-le-Grand

Thomas Girtin British

Not on view

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.

St. Paul's Cathedral from St. Martin's-le-Grand, Thomas Girtin (British, London 1775–1802 London), Watercolor, pen, black ink, over graphite

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