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Works Thomas Girtin after Michael Rooker

Caesar’s Tower, Warwick Castle

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0239: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Michael Rooker (1746–1801), Caesar's Tower, Warwick Castle, 1794–95, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 34.1 × 26.7 cm, 13 ⅜ × 10 ½ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1916.6).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Michael Rooker (1746–1801), Caesar's Tower, Warwick Castle, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original mount, 27.9 × 37.6 cm, 11 × 14 ¾ in. Royal Academy of Arts, London (03/237).

Photo courtesy of Royal Academy of Arts, London (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Michael Rooker (1746-1801)
  • Caesar’s Tower, Warwick Castle
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
34.1 × 26.7 cm, 13 ⅜ × 10 ½ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The Midlands

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
121 as 'Warwick Castle'; '1795'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2016


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 the Museum, 1916

Exhibition History

Manchester, 1975, no.14


Bell, 1915–17, pp.74–76; Davies, 1924, pl.9; Mayne, 1949, p.99; Hawcroft, 1975, p.16; Brown, 1982, p.332, no.723; Wilton, 1984a, p.19

About this Work

This upright view of Caesar’s Tower, on the southern flank of Warwick Castle, was taken from the Castle Mill on the river Avon. Earlier commentators, amongst them Francis Hawcroft, argued that the work resulted from Girtin’s tour of the Midlands in the summer of 1794 in the company of his earliest patron, the amateur James Moore (1762–99). Hawcroft also suggested that the work is an ‘unfinished study’, presumably begun on the spot, and that the muted colouring was just the second stage of its production, which would have been completed with the addition of full colour to the ‘monochrome … underpainting’ (Hawcroft, 1975, p.16). In fact, there is no conclusive evidence that Girtin visited Warwick, especially as the work that has been identified as his 1795 Royal Academy exhibit, Warwick Castle, is almost certainly one of a group of important early commissions from 1792–93, all of which were made after the work of other artists. More plausibly, Andrew Wilton has suggested that this watercolour is one of a number of ‘monochrome copies’ Girtin made after an earlier visitor to the castle and that it is therefore closely linked to a view of the ruined great hall at Kenilworth Castle (TG0288) (Wilton, 1984a, p.19).

Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Girtin’s master and teacher, certainly visited Warwick; however, although the young artist copied many of Dayes’ compositions rather than travelling to the locations himself, in this case Girtin seems to have based his work on Michael Rooker (1746–1801) whose Ceasar’s Tower, Warwick Castle (see the source image above), was shown at the Royal Academy in 1794. Girtin’s subdued palette reflects the work’s origin in Rooker’s monochrome watercolour, therefore, and in other respects he adopts stylistic features from that artist rather than Dayes. The treatment of the masonry to the left, in particular, replicates Rooker’s characteristic use of blocks of darker colour over a light ground to shape the individual stones, though the detailed pencil work showing through the rapidly added washes elsewhere is authentically Girtin. The young artist’s principal point of departure from his model, in addition to the compression of the composition, sees the complete exclusion of the figures that Rooker introduced to show that the view of the tower was taken from a working mill. Girtin’s more compact composition, with added vegetation comparable to the earlier Warwick view (TG0168), is consequently stripped of its human associations and the castle seems to spring organically from its setting of wood, rock and water, with the dark opening of the sluice adding an uncharacteristic threatening note.

1794 - 1795

The Ruins of the Great Hall, Kenilworth Castle


1792 - 1793

The Gatehouse and Barbican, Warwick Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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