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Works (?) Samuel William Reynolds after Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Guisborough Priory

1801 - 1803

Primary Image: TG1701: (?) Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Distant View of Guisborough Priory, 1801–1803, oil on canvas, 35 × 50.4 cm, 13 ¾ × 19 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund (B1978.20).

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

(?) Samuel William Reynolds (1773-1835) after Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Distant View of Guisborough Priory
1801 - 1803
Medium and Support
Oil on canvas
35 × 50.4 cm, 13 ¾ × 19 ⅞ in

'This is the only known picture by T. Girtin painted in oils. It is a copy of one of his well known watercolours. It was painted at Coleorton Hall about 1798 for his friend and patron Sir George Beaumont, Bart.' on a label on the back

Object Type
Oil painting
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

A Distant View of Guisborough Priory; The Tithe Barn, Abbotsbury (TG1699)
A Distant View of Guisborough Priory (TG1700)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Sir George Howland Beaumont, 7th Baronet (1753–1827); then by descent to Sir George Howland Francis Beaumont, 12th Baronet (1924–2011); his sale, Sotheby’s, 16 March 1978, no.95 as 'Guisborough Priory' by Thomas Girtin, unsold; bought by the Museum, 1978

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1982, III.19 as ’Guisborough Abbey’ by Thomas Girtin; New Haven, 1986b, no.31 as by Thomas Girtin


Herrmann and Owen, 1973, p.47; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.120, p.196 as 'A replica in oil ... may conceivably be by Girtin'; Hawcroft, 1975, p.57; Hawes, 1982, pp.40-41; Cormack, 1986, pp.35-37; Smith, 2002b, p.225; YCBA Onlne as by Thomas Girtin (Accessed 19/09/2022)

About this Work

This version in oils of Girtin’s watercolour view of Guisborough Priory seen from a distance with Rosebery Topping beyond (TG1699) was discovered in the early years of the twentieth century in the ancestral home of Girtin’s patron Sir George Howland Beaumont, 7th Baronet (1753–1827). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), a co-discoverer of the painting, subsequently included it in his catalogue of the artist’s works, with the significant proviso that although ‘it may conceivably be by Girtin’, he ‘found it difficult to decide … whether it was rather the case of Sir George himself copying Girtin’s watercolour’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.120 and 196). The argument in favour of Girtin as the author of the work revolved around the ‘curiously thin colour’, which suggested to the artist’s descendant that it had been painted by a beginner in the art, and that it was perhaps a case of Girtin indulging in ‘some practice with oil paint, before producing his only recorded painting of Bolton Bridge’ (TG1687), shown at the Royal Academy in 1801 (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1801). Variations of this argument were repeated in the sale catalogue dating from 1978, when the oil was put up for sale from the Beaumont collection. Subsequently, following its acquisition by the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, the idea that this is the work of a neophyte ‘translating into oil … his transparent watercolor technique’ has occasionally resurfaced (Cormack, 1986, pp.35–37). However, as Francis Hawcroft has noted, it is surely impossible to make such a judgement when there is no surviving oil by the artist to compare the work with, and indeed I would go much further and dismiss the attribution of what is a feeble effort on a number of other grounds (Hawcroft, 1975, p.57).

The prime of these is that the composition that was used as the basis for the work (TG1699) can only date, at the latest, from a few months before Girtin exhibited an oil painting at the Royal Academy, which was described by a number of reviewers as ‘one of the very best works which the present Exhibition contains’ (London Courier, 2 May 1801). Moreover, as Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) himself suggested, there was at least one better candidate for the authorship of such an amateurish effort in Beaumont himself. And to this name can be added that of Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who not only probably had access to the original watercolour in his role as Girtin’s representative during the artist’s last years, when he acted somewhere between an agent and a dealer, but also might even have been the author of a copy in watercolours (TG1700), which could, in turn, have provided the basis for the oil. Reynolds, it must be remembered, was someone who worked for Beaumont, and, as Felicity Owen has shown, he produced engravings after the patron’s works, and he also offered his advice to the amateur on painting in oils. Indeed, Reynolds’ role as a preceptor in the skills of painting in oils might account for the presence in the patron’s collection of a copy in that medium of a Girtin composition by either Reynolds himself or Beaumont (Owen and Brown, 1988, pp.103 and 155). Finally, Reynolds was clearly influenced by Girtin’s work, as a painting of Solway Moss in the collection of the direct descendent of another of the artist’s patrons, Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815), can testify; both the foreground and the distance bear a distinct resemblance to the view of Guisborough. Even though the disappearance of Bolton Bridge makes a final conclusion impossible to confirm, the cumulative evidence overwhelmingly suggests that the painting of Guisborough is not a Girtin experiment in oils.

1800 - 1801

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


(?) 1801

Bolton Bridge


1800 - 1801

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


1800 - 1801

A Distant View of Guisborough Priory


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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