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

Conwy Castle, Looking West

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0107: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), Conwy Castle, Looking West, 1792–93, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 16.8 × 21.7 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.113).

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

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Conwy Castle, 24 August 1791, graphite on laid paper, 16.8 × 21.1 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.674).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Conwy Castle, Looking West
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original washline mount
16.8 × 21.7 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
23.3 × 28 cm, 9 ⅛ × 11 in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘Conway Castle.’ on the mount, by James Moore

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; North Wales

Conwy Castle, Looking West (TG0171)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
47i as 'Conway Castle'; '1793'
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 Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931), 1912, £20; his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934


Mayne, 1949, p.99; Brown, 1982, p.323, no.706

About this Work

This view by Girtin of Conwy Castle, with the ivy-clad King’s Tower prominent in the foreground, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see source image above), and the artist did not visit the site himself until 1798. Girtin’s earliest patron toured North Wales in 1791 and he inscribed his sketches of the castle with the date, 24 August. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing watercolours on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), and each was carefully mounted, as here, with the patron’s inscription (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 The fact that some of the watercolour has bled from this drawing onto the mount indicates that it was coloured after it was pasted onto the support, and the washline surround was clearly regarded by the artist as an integral part of the drawing’s overall effect. In all Girtin painted seventy or so small watercolours after Moore’s amateurish sketches and these remained in the ownership of the antiquarian’s family until the collection was broken up after 1912, when this particularly fine example was acquired by a descendant of the artist.

Conwy Castle

This sketch and another by Moore that Girtin worked up for his patron, Conwy Castle: The Bakehouse Tower (TG0141) both depict unusual views of the castle ruins that show off the building as an impressive example of military architecture rather than just a picturesque element in the landscape. The fortress, located on a rocky outcrop on the river Conwy, was built between 1283 and 1292 by the king’s master mason, Master James of St George (d.c.1306), as part of Edward I’s plan to pacify and colonise Wales. The view chosen by Moore illustrates the complex mix of walls, towers and barbicans developed by Master James to compensate for the relatively poor defensive capability of the site, with the King’s Tower prominent in the centre, the east barbican to the right and the partially ruined Bakehouse Tower facing onto the river to the left. Moore’s interest as an antiquarian in the castle’s military function is neatly illustrated by comparing Girtin’s watercolour with a second version of the prototype drawing produced by his early master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804) (see figure 1). Thus, although Dayes also worked from Moore’s sketch, the resulting view is much less carefully worked and the buildings appear flimsy in comparison. The watercolour may be on the same scale, but it was presumably aimed more at the lower end of the market for picturesque scenery, and it was almost certainly not commissioned by Girtin’s patron. Dayes’ work is of some significance, however, since it was presumably through his initial connection with Moore that the apprentice Girtin got his commission from the antiquarian. Dayes began making versions of Moore’s sketches in 1791, and examples such as this view of Conwy must have been in his studio during the latter part of Girtin’s apprenticeship. Girtin’s employment by Moore may have come largely, if not wholly, after he left Dayes’ studio, but he was presumably able to take with him pencil outlines from which he might make watercolours such as another version of this view of Conwy (TG0171), which was commissioned by a later, unknown patron.

Another view of Conwy Castle from the same angle, though taken from further away so that one can appreciate the river setting that Moore was keen to play down, is attributed to the young Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) (TG0921). However, the watercolour, which is in the collection of Huddersfield Art Gallery, looks to me to be closer in style to Dayes’ work, though a Girtin–Turner collaboration is not out of the question.

1792 - 1793

Conwy Castle: The Bakehouse Tower


1793 - 1794

Conwy Castle, Looking West


1794 - 1797

Conwy Castle, from the East


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).

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.