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Works Thomas Girtin

A Distant View of Tynemouth Priory, from the Sea

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0850: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Distant View of Tynemouth Priory, from the Sea, 1796–97, watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.9 × 12.1 cm, 3 ⅛ × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 18 (D36645).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Distant View of Tynemouth Priory, from the Sea
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.9 × 12.1 cm, 3 ⅛ × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Durham and Northumberland

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10' by 'Turner'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.818e


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as 'Folkestone, from the sea' by Thomas Girtin; Tate Online as 'Tyenmouth Priory from the Sea' (Accessed 13/09/2022)

About this Work

This distant view of the ruins of Tynemouth Priory on its cliff-top setting, shown looking south, is one of twenty or so small-scale watercolours that Girtin made for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and that are now in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were mainly painted around 1795–96 after a set of Girtin’s outline drawings that are now also in the Turner Bequest. This example, however, is one of only a handful that seem to have been painted a little later (Wilton, 1984a, p.12), and from sketches that Girtin himself made on the spot (two others being TG0855 and TG0906). Rather than being copied from the drawings of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), the subject was studied at first hand during his trip to the north east and the Scottish Borders in 1796. As a result, the small watercolour retains the sketch-like character of earlier works such as The Medieval Kitchen, Stanton Harcourt (TG0291) but adds a new concern with weather effects and light. In this case Girtin used a ruler or the edge of a piece of wood to mask out a line to represent the lightning rather than scratching out the highlight; this could then be lifted off the paper to leave a sharp line, distinct against the dark sky. The more painterly effect is carried across the sheet to produce an image that is first and foremost a landscape, and that all but dispenses with the antiquarian subject matter of the earlier drawings.

How far Girtin went in this new direction can be judged by comparing the watercolour with the two close-up views of the ruined priory church at Tynemouth (TG0083 and TG0096) that the young artist produced for Moore from the amateur’s own sketches around 1792–93. The paradox here is that by visiting the location himself, Girtin felt free to distance himself from the subject – all of which suggest that it was not the antiquarian content that was the primary concern for Monro when he commissioned such views; they were presumably prized instead as examples of Girtin’s sketches and his ability to give the impression that studio products were made and coloured on the spot.

1796 - 1797

Flodden Field


(?) 1798

Bridgnorth, on the River Severn


1795 - 1796

The Medieval Kitchen, Stanton Harcourt


1792 - 1793

An Interior View of the Ruined East End of Tynemouth Priory Church


1792 - 1793

The East End of Tynemouth Priory Church


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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