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Works Thomas Girtin

A Church Porch

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1038: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Church Porch, 1797–98, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 24.1 × 21.2 cm, 9 ½ × 8 ⅜ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Church Porch
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
24.1 × 21.2 cm, 9 ½ × 8 ⅜ in

'Girtin' on the back

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2010


The Palser Gallery, London, 1935; Richard Wheatland (lent to the Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1937); ... Christie’s, 7 July 2010, lot 392 as 'An Abbey Doorway', £15,625; W/S Fine Art Ltd / Andrew Wyld, London, 2011

Exhibition History

Palser Gallery, 1935, no.40; Andrew Wyld, 2011, no.19


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.207 as 'Untraced ..."The Abbey Doorway"'

About this Work

This simple watercolour sketch of a church porch has been known as ‘An Abbey Doorway’, but there is not enough detail to identify the location, and the building’s proportions suggest that the subject is a more humble parish church. The sketch certainly displays many signs of being sketched at some speed on the spot, wherever that may have been. The employment of a limited palette of very liquid washes, which the artist appears to have lost control of in some areas, coupled with the very summary treatment of the architectural details, suggests a work produced in haste and where the resulting patterns have an equal, if not greater, significance than the work’s role as a record of a place. A word of caution, however. The view, both in terms of the subject and its summary treatment, has a lot in common with a watercolour showing the west porch of St Albans Abbey (TG1036), which was executed in the studio from an on-the-spot pencil drawing (TG1035). The sketch here was admittedly created with an even greater sense of urgency, but it is not out of the question that it too was produced by Girtin in the studio to meet the growing demand for his sketches from collectors. If this was the case, it may be that the view of the church porch is an imaginary one, and the fact that the work does not include enough information to make an identification of its subject may add further credence to the idea. The crucial point is that all of the signifiers of a work sketched at speed on the spot can be deployed equally in the studio, and, whilst I suspect that this work was indeed coloured in the field, there is no way that this can be proved without knowing the location at the very least.

1798 - 1799

St Albans Abbey: The West Porch


(?) 1796

St Albans Abbey: The West Porch


by Greg Smith

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