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Works Thomas Girtin

Bamburgh Castle, from the South

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0183: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Bamburgh Castle, from the South, 1796–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 19 × 26.5 cm, 7 ½ × 10 ½ in. Cragside House, Northumberland (National Trust) (NT 1226398).

Photo courtesy of National Trust Images (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Bamburgh Castle, from the South
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
19 × 26.5 cm, 7 ½ × 10 ½ in

'Girtin - 1794' lower left, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Coasts and Shipping; Durham and Northumberland

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
National Trust Website; Photograph


Anderson & Garland, 27 June 1995, lot 264 as 'Bamburgh Castle - a small boat approaching a shrimp-fisherman on the beach in the foreground', £5,000; bought by the National Trust

About this Work

This view of Bamburgh Castle on the Northumberland coast, seen from the south, is most perplexing. The drawing is signed and dated '1794', in which case it should predate Girtin’s visit to Bamburgh in 1796, when the site was one of a number of coastal locations that he sketched during his first independent tour. Girtin had made a view of Bamburgh as early as 1792–93 (TG0116), when he worked from a sketch by his earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), who visited the north east and the Scottish Borders in 1792 (see source image TG0116), and, if this watercolour does indeed date from 1794, we might expect it too to have been copied from a drawing by Moore. No such drawing appears to have survived, however, and in any case Girtin’s watercolour has so many features in common with a group of small watercolours that the artist made after his return from the 1796 northern tour that I am inclined to think that it too was made from an on-the-spot sketch from that trip and that either the date is not authentic or the artist himself added it later in error. Other north-eastern views, such as Bothal Castle (TG1089) and Seaton Sluice (TG1088), may not be dated either, but their close similarity with Pegwell Bay (TG0372), from 1796, helps to identify a significant group of small studio works that were created to replicate the spontaneity of an on-the-spot sketch. This watercolour has faded somewhat, with the sky suffering in particular, but the summary treatment of the water and the vegetation on the hill remains relatively unaffected and comparable enough with the similar areas in the view of Bothal to suggest that the two were executed at roughly the same time. A significant amount of the watercolour has been created from multiple layers of wash, and this, combined with the way in which the whole of the surface has been worked over in a uniform manner, suggests that, despite other signs of having been produced at speed, it too was produced in the studio. If I am right in suspecting the veracity of the date on this view, therefore, it has a claim to be amongst the first examples of a new kind of commodity, something I have termed the colour sketch–studio work, which Girtin developed around 1796–97. Smaller, less heavily worked and therefore cheaper to purchase, these less formal watercolours approximated the effect of the works Girtin actually coloured on the spot, and they therefore offered patrons and collectors the opportunity to buy a different aspect of the artist’s output.

1792 - 1793

Bamburgh Castle, from the East


1792 - 1793

Bamburgh Castle, from the East


1796 - 1797

Bothal Castle, from the River Wansbeck


1796 - 1797

Seaton Sluice



Pegwell Bay, near Ramsgate


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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