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Works Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Arundel Castle, from the South

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1567: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Distant View of Arundel Castle, from the South, 1799–1800, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 40.6 × 55 cm, 16 × 21 ⅝ in. Arundel Castle, Sussex.

Photo courtesy of Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Distant View of Arundel Castle, from the South
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
40.6 × 55 cm, 16 × 21 ⅝ in

‘Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Country House View; Sussex View; The Landscape Park

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2002


The Duke of Norfolk, date of acquisition unknown; then by descent

Exhibition History

London, 2002, no.147

About this Work

It is not known when this distant view of Arundel Castle in Sussex entered the collection at Arundel, but there is no evidence that it was produced as a commission for the then owner of the estate, the 11th Duke of Norfolk (1746–1815). Indeed, the lack of an early provenance for the watercolour, combined with the minor role played by the castle in the composition, suggests that Girtin may have produced it as a speculation, rather than at the behest of the duke. Like Alnwick Castle, from Brizlee (TG1092), which is the same large size and has similar figures in the foreground, this is a landscape view that contains a property, rather than a country house portrait in the mould of the even larger watercolours of Harewood produced for Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) (such as TG1548). This is particularly apt here, since the duke initially concentrated on remodelling the park prior to restoring the ancient castle as a comfortable modern residence, and this view from the south shows some of the results of the owner’s endeavours. The estate was open to the public, and, as if to emphasise the fact, the view out over the castle – surrounded by trees and encircled by the river Arun – to a fertile horizon is enjoyed by two peasant women and a child. Whether or not Girtin was working to a commission, therefore, the work presents the duke in a favourable light as the designer of a natural setting for an ancient castle restored and, by implication, a benevolent landlord. 

Unlike the view of Alnwick, which in all likelihood is based on a drawing made on Girtin’s visit to the north east in 1796, there is no evidence that the artist ever travelled to West Sussex, and the watercolour was therefore probably painted from a sketch by another artist, though extensive searches have not revealed the source. Certainly, this might account for the unsatisfactory dislocation between the foreground, which feels as though it were invented, and the more convincing distance. This has no doubt been exacerbated by the differential fading, which has reduced the greens in the foreground to dull earth colours, whilst those in the distance have retained some of their original freshness. However, the birches to the left and the bank and dead tree to the right appear to have been included by Girtin to frame the vista in the sort of conventional manner that the artist generally avoided. I suspect, therefore, that a more apt comparison might be with the views of Chalfont House (TG1564 and TG1565), where both the composition and the style display a conservative and conventional quality that could also stem from being worked from an intermediary source.

1799 - 1800

Alnwick Castle, from Brizlee


(?) 1801

Harewood House, from the South East


(?) 1800

Chalfont House, from the North East, with Fishermen Netting the Broadwater


(?) 1800

Chalfont House, from the North West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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