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Works Thomas Girtin

Egglestone Abbey, on the River Tees

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1071: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Egglestone Abbey, on the River Tees, 1798–99, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 28.4 × 42.6 cm, 11 ⅛ × 16 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1855,0214.15).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Print after: Samuel Middiman (1751–1831), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), etching and engraving, 'Eggleston Abbey' for Castles and Abbeys in England and Wales, pl.3, 1 October 1805, 18.8 × 25 cm, 7 ⅜ × 9 ⅞ in. British Museum, London (1871,0610.639).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Egglestone Abbey, on the River Tees
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
28.4 × 42.6 cm, 11 ⅛ × 16 ¾ in

‘Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Durham and Northumberland; Monastic Ruins

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
334 as '1799–1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Chambers Hall (1786–1855); presented to the Museum, 1855

Exhibition History

Barnard Castle, 2013, no number


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.42; Davies, 1924, pl.45; Tuck, 1997, pp.329–30, 387–88; House, Rudd and Seward, 2013, pp.51–52; British Museum, Collection (Accessed 15/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the ruins of Egglestone Abbey on the banks of the river Tees was taken from a point a little further downriver than the earlier image of the east end of the church (TG1070). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak dated the work to 1799–1800 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.179), which may be about right, but I am not convinced by another suggestion, made on the collections website of the British Museum, that the work was executed on the spot during Girtin’s second trip to the north east in 1800. The anonymous text puts forward the idea ‘that it was executed in the flat, abbreviated painting technique that he’ used in a view of Morpeth Bridge that is dated 1800 (TG1706) (1855,0214.15). However, like the dated view of Morpeth, this work is far too carefully organised to have been painted on the spot, and in any case it would have been completely out of character for Girtin to have made an extensive detour to Egglestone in 1800 when he had already visited and sketched the abbey ruins in 1796. By far the likeliest scenario, therefore, is that Girtin returned to another sketch that he made on the 1796 trip that looked north west in the direction of Barnard Castle, and that he then developed a suitable evening effect.

The watercolour has suffered significant fading over the years, with the result that the sky has lost much of its definition, and the general loss of colour means that large areas of the vegetation appear quite lifeless. The change in condition has also compromised the evening effect, though traces of this are still apparent in the distant glow in the sky and the way that the declining sun illuminates the ruins and catches the edges of the more distant trees. A certain flattening out of the vegetation caused by the gathering evening gloom was no doubt part of Girtin’s design, but the change of the watercolour’s condition has exacerbated the effect and this, I suggest, creates the false impression of a work produced in a hurry.

Egglestone Abbey

This watercolour was one of a number that were engraved posthumously by publishers keen to cash in on the interest in Girtin’s works after his death (see the print after, above, published in 1805). There is also another version of the composition that measures roughly the same as the print (see figure 1). The work last appeared in public at an auction in 1962 and is known only from a poor-quality black and white image (Exhibitions: Sotheby’s, 14 March 1962, lot 109). It is therefore not possible to confirm the attribution to Girtin, but, as far as one can tell, it appears to be a variation on the composition by an amateur, possibly working from the 1805 print.

1796 - 1797

Egglestone Abbey, from the River Tees



Morpeth Bridge


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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