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Works Thomas Girtin

Christ Church, Southwark

(?) 1792

Primary Image: TG0064: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Christ Church, Southwark, (?) 1792, graphite on wove paper, 24.6 × 33.5 cm, 9 ⅝ × 13 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1156).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Christ Church, Southwark
(?) 1792
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
24.6 × 33.5 cm, 9 ⅝ × 13 ¼ in

‘T. Girtin / Christs Church, Surrey’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin; ‘No 35’ on the back; ‘13’ on the back

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
London Architecture

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
82 as 'Christchurch, Blackfriars'; 'c. 1792-4'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


George Wyndham Hog Girtin (1835–1911), by c.1856; then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.5 as ’Christ Church, Blackfriars’

About this Work

This carefully detailed drawing of Christ Church, Southwark, bears clear signs that it was produced for reproduction in one of the many topographical studies that included illustrations of London’s buildings. The relatively recently built church in Blackfriars Road lacks any of the picturesque qualities required for a saleable finished watercolour and the careful attention paid to the details of the architecture suggests that its value to whoever commissioned it lay in its fidelity as a record. As with the view of All Saints’ Church, Fulham (TG0059), the back of the drawing is inscribed with two numbers, which may mean that the image was produced as part of a sequence of views. Alternatively, the numbers could refer to the source of the work in an earlier publication, though nothing comparable has been found and the stylistic evidence points to a drawing made on the spot in around 1792, albeit on an uncharacteristically large scale.

Christ Church, Southwark, on Blackfriars Road

The discovery of a signed and dated watercolour view of Christ Church by the topographical artist George Sidney Shepherd (1784–1862) (see figure 1), from 1812, poses intriguing questions about Girtin’s drawing. The watercolour, with the exception of the figures, follows the pencil sketch exactly down to the time on the clock, the direction of the weather vane, the position of the woodpile to the left and any number of other details that would have appeared differently if the artist had moved his point of view even fractionally. Setting aside the possibility that the pencil drawing was actually made by Shepherd – the inscription on the reverse certainly seems to be by Girtin – we are left with the question of how the later artist came upon Girtin’s view. The answer may be found in relation to another, untraced drawing that Shepherd made after a sketch by Girtin, Winchester Cathedral, from the North East (TG0276). The engraving (see print after TG0276) that in turn was made for John Britton’s Beauties of England and Wales (Brayley and Britton, 1801–1815) is inscribed as after a ‘Sketch by G. Shepherd’ and is also dated 1812. Girtin’s pencil remained in the collection of his early patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and it was presumably there that Shepherd copied the Winchester view. It is reasonable to assume that the pencil drawing of Christ Church was also made there.

What appears to be a copy of the watercolour of Christ Church is in the collection of the London Metropolitan Archives, where it is attributed to Gideon Yates (active 1803–37) and dated to approximately 1830. The copy, which again follows Girtin’s drawing down to details such as the direction of the weather vane and the time on the clock, is poor in quality and was presumably made by an amateur after the work by Shepherd, rather than being based on this drawing.

Christ Church, Southwark, was built between 1738 and 1741 with a three-storey clock tower with open work at the top that attracted the attention of a number of artists. The distinctive tower is even a prominent feature in the second section of Girtin’s London panorama, as it was visible from the artist’s viewpoint on the roof of the Albion Terrace (TG1852). The building was badly damaged during the Second World War and was subsequently demolished.


All Saints’ Church, Fulham, from the Seven Bells, Putney


(?) 1795

Winchester Cathedral, from the North East


(?) 1795

Winchester Cathedral, from the North East


(?) 1801

Great Surrey Street and Christ Church, Southwark: Outline Study for the ‘Eidometropolis’, Section Two


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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