James Moore (1762–99) was a partner in a wholesale linen draper in Cheapside, London, but it is for his work as an antiquarian and amateur artist that he is remembered. Based in Stamford Street in Southwark, close to Girtin’s birthplace, Moore began a series of annual sketching tours in 1784 during which he assiduously recorded the nation’s ruined castles and abbeys, as well as some of its outstanding Gothic churches and cathedrals, in utilitarian outline drawings of little artistic merit (see source image TG0084). The sketches formed the basis of drawings and prints worked up by professional artists for publication in The Copper-Plate Magazine as well as a number of books appearing under his own name, including Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (Moore, 1792) and Twenty-Five Views in the Southern Part of Scotland (Moore, 1794). Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Girtin’s master, was one of the artists employed by Moore to realise his sketches as more finished watercolours, and he turned to Girtin himself sometime in 1792 to complete the task, presumably at the behest of Dayes (Moore, Payments, 1792–93). The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1). The relationship was still active as late as 1796 and in all it resulted in more than a hundred watercolours by Girtin, making Moore by far and away the artist’s most important early patron. In addition to producing essentially mundane small-scale topographical works, Girtin was commissioned to paint a more ambitious series of cathedral views, beginning with Ely Cathedral, from the South East (TG0202), which became the artist’s first exhibited work (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1794, no.346). This was still made after a drawing by Moore (see source image TG0202), though the artist soon after accompanied Moore on a tour to the Midlands, with the result that his watercolours of Peterborough (TG1017), Lincoln (TG1008), Southwell (TG1025) and Lichfield (TG1002) married the accurate depiction of architectural details to an increasing sense of drama. This balance of the imaginary and the documentary culminated in his view The Interior of Exeter Cathedral, Looking from the Nave (TG1256), which was painted at least partly on the spot in the autumn of 1797. There is also some evidence that Girtin even worked on Moore’s on-the-spot drawings, correcting and firming up his tentative outlines as in Sussex views such as Battle Church, from the South East (TG0154).

Moore died in 1799, but his extensive collection remained in the family well into the twentieth century, when significant portions were acquired by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. The extensive archive that came to the latter with their part of the collection illustrates the serious level of research that accompanied Girtin’s work for antiquarians such as Moore, and it bears out the later testimony of Thomas Holcroft (1745–1809), who records that the artist ‘delighted in and had studied the Gothic’ (Holcroft, 1804, vol.2, p.489).

1792 - 1793

Findlater Castle


(?) 1794

Ely Cathedral, from the South East


(?) 1794

Ely Cathedral, from the South East



The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral



Lincoln Cathedral, from the West


1794 - 1795

Southwell Minster, from the North West



The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral



The Interior of Exeter Cathedral, Looking from the Nave


(?) 1795

Battle Church, from the South East


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