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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

Craigmillar Castle, near Edinburgh

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0089: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), Craigmillar Castle, near Edinburgh, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 16.9 × 21.5 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.122).

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

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Craigmillar Castle, near Edinburgh, 26 August 1792, graphite on wove paper, 18.1 × 22.9 cm, 7 ⅛ × 9 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.711).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Craigmillar Castle, near Edinburgh
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount
16.9 × 21.5 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
23.4 × 28.2 cm, 9 ¼ × 11 ⅛ in

‘Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
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, £25; his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.52


Mayne, 1949, p.99; Brown, 1982, p.322, no.703

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing Craigmillar Castle, now part of Edinburgh, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see source image above), and the young artist never visited the site himself. Girtin’s earliest patron made an extensive tour of Scotland in the late summer of 1792 and his sketch of the castle ruins from the south east is dated 26 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), each with its own distinctive washline mount (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 In this case the colour from the drawing has seeped onto the mount, a good indication that it was conceived as an integral part of the watercolour. In all Girtin painted seventy or so small watercolours after Moore’s sketches, including about thirty compositions derived from drawings made on the trip to Scotland. Moore employed other artists to work up his sketches for reproduction, including Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), but it seems that the seventeen-year-old artist, who may still have been an apprentice at this date, was tasked with simply producing the best watercolours he could from the little more than functional records produced by the antiquarian. Moore’s collection of watercolours by Girtin, which eventually numbered over a hundred, remained in the ownership of his family until it was broken up after 1912, when this work was acquired by a descendant of the artist.

William Byrne (1743–1805), after Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), etching and engraving, 'Craigmillar Castle' for <i>The Antiquities of Great-Britain</i>, vol.1, 1 January 1782, 21.3 × 26 cm, 8 ⅜ × 10 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art Library, Paul Mellon Collection.

Girtin generally made few changes to Moore’s compositions, in this case just adding a simple figure group in the foreground and inventing a lively skyscape that is not present in the original sketch. The latter element is uncharacteristically formulaic; it is decorative in effect and lacks a convincing sense of recession. A happier change results from the way the artist cuts the lateral extent of the composition to bring the main architectural subject closer to the viewer. As a result, the four-storey tower at the heart of the castle gains considerably in presence. However, as a comparison with Thomas Hearne’s (1744–1817) earlier and more imposing and dramatic view of Craigmillar suggests (see figure 1), there was only so much that a young artist could do to improve upon his source material. Certainly, working from Moore’s prosaic outline drawing, even Girtin could not evoke Craigmillar’s rich historical associations and, specifically, its links to the dramatic events of the life of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Another view of Craigmillar Castle, again taken from Moore’s 1792 sketch, was engraved by John Landseer (1769–1852) for Twenty-Five Views in the Southern Part of Scotland (Moore, 1794, p.13). The drawing, which has not been traced, was almost certainly made by Dayes and is one of a number of examples of where both master and pupil were commissioned to produce the same view – one for engraving and the other for inclusion in a portfolio in the patron’s library. There are only minor differences in details, such as the figures in the foreground.

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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