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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Guisborough Priory

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1700: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Distant View of Guisborough Priory, 1800–01, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 30.5 × 51.3 cm, 12 × 20 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1208).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Distant View of Guisborough Priory
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
30.5 × 51.3 cm, 12 × 20 ¼ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

A Distant View of Guisborough Priory; The Tithe Barn, Abbotsbury (TG1699)
A Distant View of Guisborough Priory (TG1701)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911) (lent to London, 1875); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.49 as 'Guisborough Priory, Yorkshire' by Thomas Girtin; Cambridge, 1920, no.34; Agnew’s, 1923, no.1; Agnew’s, 1931, no.120; London, 1962a, no.168 as ’Attributed to’ Thomas Girtin; New Haven, 1986a, no.124 as ’nineteenth-century copy ... formerly attributed to Thomas Girtin’


Grundy, 1921b, p.69; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.196 as 'traditionally called Girtin but here attributed to Wm. Pearson'; YCBA Online as by a 'follower of' Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This watercolour, showing the same distant view of the ruined east end of the priory church of Guisborough that is seen in a smaller work in a private collection (TG1699), has in recent years been dismissed as a ‘nineteenth century’ copy (Morris, 1986, p.51). The attribution of the work to Girtin was first questioned by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, who, despite the fact that the watercolour had been in the family collection for over a century, concluded that it is a ‘variant’ by William Pearson (1772–1849) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.196). However, although the work has many manifest faults, it is clearly not a simple copy since it includes more of the composition to the left and right, where the figures on the curving road pursue a more logical route as a result; moreover, it has a very different sky, and the distant landscape is also clarified, albeit that the forms of the hills and Roseberry Topping to the right, in particular, have been exaggerated. To my eye, it is only the sky, which ironically resembles Girtin’s much earlier works, that suggests another hand at work. The flat and lifeless appearance of the trees and the bland appearance of the hills may be accounted for by the work’s evidently faded condition, and I am consequently less inclined to dismiss the attribution of the work to the artist than my predecessors. Thus, I wonder whether the increase in the work’s size compared to the ‘original’ is relevant, since it brings it into line with the standard format of so many of Girtin’s later studio works that he produced for Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer. It may of course be that this version of the composition is actually by Reynolds, and he certainly had the ability and knowledge to expand on a composition such as this, which, indeed, may even have passed through his hands; certainly, his is a more credible name than Pearson’s as the work’s author. However, I would still like to leave open the possibility that the watercolour is by Girtin himself, at least until we know a little more about the effect of fading on the artist’s works as well as Reynolds’ role as a copyist, not least in the production of the oil of the same composition, to which this drawing may indeed be related (TG1701).

1800 - 1801

A Distant View of Guisborough Priory; The Tithe Barn, Abbotsbury


1801 - 1803

A Distant View of Guisborough Priory


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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