For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Colchester Castle

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0332: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Colchester Castle, 1794–95, graphite on laid paper, 16.2 × 23.7 cm, 6 ⅜ × 9 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 25 (D36596).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Colchester Castle
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper
16.2 × 23.7 cm, 6 ⅜ × 9 ¼ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Essex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1-2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1239 as 'Colchester Castle' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.76b

About this Work

This view of Colchester Castle in Essex is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), many of which were bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) and are now therefore to be found in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The majority were copied by Girtin from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and none of the drawings were made on the spot. The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with Turner, was employed at Monro’s home at the Adelphi to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card, measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), including fifteen or so that found a home in the Turner Bequest, and these may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron.

George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824), after James Moore (1762–99), aquatint, 'Colchester Castle' for <i>Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales</i>, p.91, 1 January 1792, 8 × 10.9 cm, 3 ⅛ × 4 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

The small watercolour in this case, if it ever existed, has not been traced and the source for the pencil outline is also missing, though it is clear that it was a sketch made by Moore on his tour of East Anglia. Girtin painted a slightly different view of Colchester Castle (TG0127), and the aquatint used to illustrate Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (see figure 1) records that it was made on 26 August 1790 (Moore, 1792, p.91). The views in the watercolour and the pencil drawing are taken from slightly different angles, with the drawing showing more of the castle walls to the left. It is possible that Girtin adapted his patron’s view, but in general he changed Moore’s drawings very little, and it is safe to assume that this drawing was copied from another sketch, with the patron shifting to a different position from which the distinctive cupola on the south-east tower is more prominent.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

1792 - 1793

Colchester Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.