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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Dumbarton Rock, from the North

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0258: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Dumbarton Rock, from the North, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper (watermark: WHATMAN), 12.5 × 22.7 cm, 4 ⅞ × 8 ⅞ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII 20 (D36591).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Dumbarton Rock, from the North
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper (watermark: WHATMAN)
12.5 × 22.7 cm, 4 ⅞ × 8 ⅞ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


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 'Dumbarton Castle' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.75b

About this Work

This view of Dumbarton Rock, the imposing site of a castle overlooking the river Clyde, 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. The watercolour from this outline has not been traced, though it may have been one of the ‘six small water-colour Drawings’ attributed to Turner that were sold at auction in 1934 (Exhibitions: Sotheby’s, 13 June 1934, lot 11).

Dumbarton Rock, from across the River Leven

The source for the pencil outline, a drawing made by Moore on a trip to Scotland in 1787, has not be traced either, but we can be sure that Girtin copied the composition from his patron because of the inscription added to a watercolour of the view by George Robertson (1748–88) (see figure 1). The view of the rock from the north is inscribed ‘1787 Dumbarton Castle Geo: Robertson from my sketch – J. Moore’. By the time Girtin copied Moore’s drawing, he had already produced another view of Dumbarton in watercolours for his patron (TG0101), though this work was based on a sketch from his 1792 trip to Scotland. The crucial point here is that Girtin had access to drawings by Moore from every period; therefore, just because the original sketch cannot be traced, it does not mean we should necessarily assume that Girtin used another source.

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 (1749–c.1820) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (1792) (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

Dumbarton Rock and the Castle, from the North West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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