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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Buildwas Abbey

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0136: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Buildwas Abbey, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 16.8 × 21.6 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ½ in. Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI, anonymous gift (72.171.29).

Photo courtesy of Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Anonymous gift (72.171.29) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Buildwas Abbey
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount
16.8 × 21.6 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ½ in
Mount Dimensions
19.4 × 24.3 cm, 7 ⅝ × 9 ½ in

‘Founded AD 1135’ on the back of the mount, by James Moore

Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Shropshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


James Moore (1762–99); his widow, Mary Moore (née Howett) (d.1835); bequeathed to Anne Miller (1802–90); bequeathed to Edward Mansel Miller (1829–1912); bequeathed to Helen Louisa Miller (1842–1915); bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 1912, £20; exchanged with the Leicester Galleries, London, November 1912; bought by J. Palser & Sons (stock no.17188); bought by 'Ponchan', 14 October 1918, with TG0118; ... Fine Art Society, London, 1939; Guy Daniel Harvey-Samuel (1887–1960); Fine Art Society, London, 1960; bought by an anonymous collector; presented to the Museum, 1972

Exhibition History

Palser Gallery, 1914, no.92; Fine Art Society, 1939, no.41; Fine Art Society, 1960, no.78; Denver, 1993, no.45

About this Work

George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) and Jacob C. Schnebbelie (1760–92), after James Moore (1762–99), aquatint, 'Buildwas Abbey' for <i>Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales</i>, p.41, 1 September 1791, 7.5 × 10 cm, 3 × 4 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

This view by Girtin of the ruined east end of the Cistercian abbey of Buildwas in Shropshire was produced after an untraced sketch made by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), and it is unlikely that Girtin ever visited the site himself. Girtin’s earliest patron toured the Welsh Borders in 1787 (not 1789, as wrongly noted in Moore, 1792, p.42) and he sketched the abbey ruins at Buildwas on 27 September. Moore’s drawing was reproduced as an aquatint by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) and was published in Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales in 1791 (see figure 1) (Moore, 1792). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak thought that Girtin worked from this print, but, since the publication of their catalogue in 1954, more sketches by Moore have emerged and it is now clear that Girtin produced his watercolours directly from the amateur’s on-the-spot records (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.137). Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing small watercolours on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), with each carefully mounted with the patron’s inscription (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 In all Girtin produced as many as seventy watercolours from Moore’s mundane sketches. The majority of the drawings remained in the ownership of Moore’s descendants until the collection was broken up after 1912, when the artist’s great-grandson, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), briefly acquired this work.

The view of Buildwas is one of a small group that Girtin made from sketches Moore executed in South Wales and the Borders during tours in 1787 and 1788. They all show close-up views of the region’s ancient castles and monastic ruins and, typically of the set, this watercolour omits details of the building’s setting and develops a simple composition that did not stretch Moore’s limited capabilities as an artist. Like the views of castles at Manorbier (TG0103) and Chepstow (TG0134), Buildwas is shown under a placid sky and there is no attempt to develop any effects that might evoke associations appropriate to the site. All of this suggests an early date for this group of works, when the young Girtin was content to render the sketches of his patron in an even light with only the generous provision of foliage to add a picturesque character to a scene primarily of antiquarian interest. This is in marked contrast to the roughly contemporary view of the interior of Buildwas (TG0023), which the young Girtin may have made after a sketch by his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and which also came from Moore’s collection. Dayes’ sketch (see TG0023 figure 1) seems to have offered the young artist more to work with, most notably a dramatic viewpoint and a strong contrast of light and shade, prompting Girtin to develop an image depicting the more sublime qualities associated with the nation’s ruins.

1792 - 1793

Manorbier Castle


1792 - 1793

Chepstow Castle


1791 - 1792

The Interior of Buildwas Abbey Church


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).

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