A View near Lyme Regis, Dorset, c. 1797-1798
watercolour over graphite on laid paper, laid down on heavy wove paper
24 x 54.9 cm
National Gallery of Canada (no. 5065)
For this watercolour Girtin chose a radical new compositional format, the long narrow panorama (a word coined only a decade earlier for the commercial mass entertainment of a continuous 360-degree painting). The view is featureless, with no major focal points, and artless, rejecting the traditional compositional formulae that had developed on Claudian and Picturesque principles.The inspiration came from Dutch 17th-century vistas, such as those by Philips Koninck. Girtin was one of the first watercolourists to reject white or offwhite paper in favour of cartridge or wrapping paper with particles of hemp in it, which produce a warm tone and rough texture.