Thomas Girtin - Encyclopedia




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THOMAS GIRTIN (1775-1802), English painter and etcher, was the son of a well-to-do cordage maker in Southwark, London. His father died while Thomas was a child, and his widow married Mr Vaughan, a pattern-draughtsman. Girtin learnt drawing as a boy, and was apprenticed to Edward Doyes (1763-1804), the mezzotint engraver, and he soon made J. M. W. Turner's acquaintance. His architectural and topographical sketches and drawings soon established his reputation, his use of watercolour for landscapes being such as to give him the credit of having created modern water-colour painting, as opposed to mere "tinting." His etchings also were characteristic of his artistic genius. His early death from consumption (9th of November 1802) led indeed to Turner saying that "had Tom Girtin lived I should have starved." From 1794 to his death he was an exhibitor at the Royal Academy; and some fine examples of his work have been bequeathed by private owners to the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

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