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Works Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Bolton Abbey

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1681: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), A Distant View of Bolton Abbey, 1800–01, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper, 14 × 20.3 cm, 5 ½ × 8 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Print after: Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), mezzotint, Bolton Abbey, 1822/23, published belatedly in Liber Naturae; or, A Collection of Prints from the Drawings of Thomas Girtin, pl.2, London, 1883, 16.6 × 22.7 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in. British Museum, London (1893,0612.82.3).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • A Distant View of Bolton Abbey
Date
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper
Dimensions
14 × 20.3 cm, 5 ½ × 8 in
Part of
Object Type
Replica by Girtin
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; River Scenery; Yorkshire View

Collection
Versions
A Distant View of Bolton Abbey (TG1614)
Catalogue Number
TG1681
Girtin & Loshak Number
378ii as 'Bolton Abbey'; '1801'
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue

Provenance

Possibly bought by Samuel Rogers (1763–1855), £8; ... Henry Vaughan (1809–99); John Lewis Roget (1828–1908) (lent to London, 1905; London, 1908); then by descent to J. R. Roget; his sale, Sotheby’s, 12 March 1987, lot 62, £36,300

Exhibition History

London, 1905, no.6; London, 1908b, no.232 as ’A Ruined Abbey’; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.88

Bibliography

Clifford, 1976, pl.91; Morris, 1987b, p.19; Tuck, 1997, pp.93–94; Bauer, 1998, p.68

About this Work

This distant view of the ruins of Bolton Priory, from the river Wharfe, appears to have been made after an on-the-spot sketch that Girtin probably made on his trip to Yorkshire in the summer of 1800 (TG1614). This is not Girtin’s standard size of studio watercolour, sharing instead the same dimensions as the other sketch, and, although it is rather more worked up, it is not significantly different in terms of finish and it may well have been produced with the market for Girtin’s sketches in mind. Moreover, it is not out of the question that it, rather than the other version, is the drawing that was detached from the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625) and that has been linked to the inscription on the page opposite the missing sheet, which reads ‘Bolton Abbey – Color’d on the spot sold to Mr. Rogers 8£’. This has been interpreted to refer to the poet and collector Samuel Rogers (1763–1855). The book, which I have deliberately not referred to as a sketchbook, contains a number of different papers that, from their watermarks and their arrangement within the binding, indicate that the contents includes a mix of copies from earlier works and sketches made on the spot, and it is therefore possible that this drawing is actually a replica that was added to the book with a sale in mind. Unfortunately, there is no evidence about the early provenance of either of the sketch-like versions of the distant view of Bolton Abbey that might link one of them definitively with the sale to Rogers, and there is no alternative at this stage but to accept a significant element of uncertainty.

Bolton Abbey

Resolving these issues may be helped by understanding more about the relationship of the drawing with both the mezzotint that was executed after this version by Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835) (see the print after, above, Neill & Son, 1883) and the watercolour copy that has been attributed to Paul Sandby Munn (1773–1845) (see figure 1). So many of the Reynolds mezzotints can be linked with copies that are not by Girtin, produced either by the engraver himself or by amateurs working from his prints, that it is essential that we look carefully at the drawing itself. In this case, however, the quality of the work is such that I do not think that there is any question about the attribution, but I suspect that the Reynolds connection may still be important. In the first instance, since the drawing must have been in the hands of Reynolds in order to be engraved, it might well be that he was the author of the watercolour copy; in the second, could it be that the book itself came into Reynolds’ possession and that he sold this drawing from it as Girtin’s representative, acting in a capacity somewhere between agent and dealer? Two pieces of evidence suggest that this might be the case. Firstly, Reynolds’ posthumous sale included an item listed as ‘Girtin’s sketch-book; a volume containing sixty sketches in pencil views in England’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 18 April 1836, lot 181). Secondly, another drawing, which is still in the book, was the subject of one of his mezzotints, The Valley of the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert (see print after TG1324). Although this means discounting the veracity of the inscription stating that the detached drawing was made on the spot, it is possible that the sequence of events linking the two versions of the Bolton Abbey view could be as follows: the work discussed above (TG1614) was made by Girtin on the spot around 1800 on a small piece of paper, and this version was copied by the artist a little later on a page in the book with TG1681 as the result; and then, when the book came into the hands of Reynolds, presumably after the artist’s death, the drawing was copied by him in watercolours (see figure 1) and reproduced as a mezzotint (see print after TG1681), and that he then sold the detached page to Rogers for the inflated price of £8. A convoluted story, but not out of keeping with the complex make-up of a book of drawings that in no way resembles, in form or function, the traditional sketchbook, and with an artist who worked relentlessly to efface the distinction between the sketch and the studio work.

(?) 1800

A Distant View of Bolton Abbey

TG1614

1800 - 1801

The Valley of the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert

TG1324

(?) 1800

A Distant View of Bolton Abbey

TG1614

1800 - 1801

A Distant View of Bolton Abbey

TG1681

1800 - 1801

A Distant View of Bolton Abbey

TG1681

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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