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Works Thomas Girtin

Dunstanburgh Castle, Viewed from a Distance

(?) 1796

Primary Image: TG1100: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Dunstanburgh Castle, Viewed from a Distance, (?) 1796, graphite on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 12.8 × 21 cm, 5 × 8 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1179).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Dunstanburgh Castle, Viewed from a Distance
(?) 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
12.8 × 21 cm, 5 × 8 ¼ in

‘Dunstanborough Castle / T. Girtin’ on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Durham and Northumberland

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
162 as 'Dunstanborough Castle, from a Distance'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 16 May 1881, unknown part of lots 390–92; Edward Cohen (1816–87); then by bequest to his niece, Isabella Oswald (1838–1905); her posthumous sale, Robins & Hine, 30 March 1905, lot unknown; bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), £1; given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.44


YCBA Online as 'Dustanborough Castle from a Distance'

About this Work

This slight sketch shows a distant view from the north of Dunstanburgh Castle, on the Northumberland coast, with the Lilburn Tower (shown in TG1101) standing prominently in the centre, and it was probably made in 1796 on Girtin’s first independent sketching tour. Only one of the twenty or so pencil drawings and on-the-spot colour sketches that survive from the trip is dated, but it is still broadly possible to trace Girtin’s progress through Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders from the titles of the works that he sent to the 1797 Royal Academy exhibition, and from the dated watercolours that were subsequently produced from these and other untraced sketches. Unusually for Girtin, this sketch does not seem to have been used as the basis for a finished studio watercolour, but two other Dunstanburgh views appear, from stylistic evidence, to have been painted around 1797 (TG1101 and TG1102). Given that the artist does not seem to have visited the Northumberland coast again, a date of 1796 for this drawing seems eminently plausible.

Of the sketches so far identified as coming from the 1796 tour, only this drawing and a view of Dryburgh (TG1118) roughly share the same dimensions, and, given that both are inscribed by Girtin with his name and the subject in the same format on the back, it is just possible that they were removed from a sketchbook for sale at some point. Moreover, the sketch of Dunstanburgh has quite extensive stains of blue and grey on the reverse, which might suggest that it came from a book that contained sheets coloured on the spot. In general, though, Girtin does not seem to have used a sketchbook, choosing instead to work on pieces of paper of varying sizes, cut down from the larger sheets that he would have bought from a stationer in London. The colour stains might just as easily be explained by the artist’s consistently casual attitude towards his drawings, which do not ever seem to have been ordered in any systematic way.

1797 - 1798

Dunstanburgh Castle: The Lilburn Tower


1797 - 1798

Dunstanburgh Castle: The Lilburn Tower


1797 - 1798

Dunstanburgh Castle


(?) 1796

Dryburgh Abbey


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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