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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

Deskford Castle

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0109: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), Deskford Castle, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 16.7 × 21.6 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.124).

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

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Deskford Castle, 13 September 1792, graphite on wove paper, 17.9 × 22.9 cm, 7 × 9 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.738).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Deskford Castle
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount
16.7 × 21.6 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
23 × 28 cm, 9 × 11 in

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

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

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
60 as '1793–4'
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) (lent to London, 1875); 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.33


Mayne, 1949, p.99; Brown, 1982, pp.325-26, no.711

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing the ruins of Deskford Castle, on the north-east coast of Scotland, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see source image above), and Girtin himself never visited the site. Girtin’s earliest patron undertook an extensive tour of the country in the late summer of 1792, and his sketch of the modest fourteenth-century tower from the north east is dated 13 September. 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), as here, each with its own distinctive washline mount and inscription added by the patron (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 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.

Deskford Castle

Dayes also made a watercolour from Moore’s drawing (see figure 1), and it was this smaller view that was engraved as an illustration for Robert Forsyth’s The Beauties of Scotland (Forsyth, 1805–8, vol.4, p.482). Neither Dayes nor Girtin were able to squeeze any great drama from Moore’s drawing of Deskford, however. In contrast to the exciting coastal setting of Findlater (TG0084), which was also the seat of the owners of Deskford, the Sinclairs, the tower’s ruins were modest in scale and occupied a quiet inland setting. Indeed, without Moore’s inscription one would be hard pressed to identify the verdant site or distinguish the ruins themselves from the humble domestic buildings that surround the structure in its decline.

1792 - 1793

Findlater Castle


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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