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Works Thomas Girtin

Exeter Cathedral, from the South

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1259: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Exeter Cathedral, from the South, 1798–99, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 38.5 × 54 cm, 15 ⅛ × 21 ¼ in. Koriyama City Museum of Art.

Photo courtesy of Koriyama City Museum of Art, Fukushima Prefecture, Japan

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Exeter Cathedral, from the South
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
38.5 × 54 cm, 15 ⅛ × 21 ¼ in

'Girtin' lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Sale Catalogue


James Worthington (lent to London, 1875); ... private collection, Devon; then by descent; Phillips, 8 October 1984, lot 57; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £14,000; bought from them by the Museum, 1985

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.15 as 'Exeter'; Agnew’s, 1985, no.95

About this Work

This view of Exeter Cathedral from the river, with the two Norman transept towers prominent on its elevated location, was presumably based on an untraced sketch that Girtin made on his West Country tour in the autumn of 1797. The artist is documented as having been in the city in early November, sketching the interior of the cathedral for his earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99) (TG1256) (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 At the same time, the artist also made a drawing of the sixteenth-century Guildhall (TG1255), as well as a number of views along the river Exe that yielded two further studio watercolours, Exeter, from Trew’s Weir (TG1258) and On the River Exe (TG1261). This view is taken from a closer viewpoint than the former, and from a stretch of the river Exe known as Haven Banks, though it also shows the view north. As with the smaller watercolour of the view from Trew’s Weir, the ‘magnificent Cathedral, towering high over the summit of trees’ seen from this stretch of the river has, as a contemporary visitor noted, a fine accompaniment of ‘Wood, water & Villa’s’ that typify ‘the Richness, the fertility, the Picturesque scenery of the County’ as a whole (quoted in Hunt, 1984, p.31). From this angle, therefore, the artist did not have to resort to obscuring the stretch of modern buildings to the west under a showery sky, so that the building seems to emerge naturally from its semi-rural setting lit by a benevolent late afternoon sun.


The Interior of Exeter Cathedral, Looking from the Nave


(?) 1797

The Guildhall, Exeter


1798 - 1799

Exeter, from Trew’s Weir


1799 - 1800

On the River Exe, Exeter


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The financial records of the artist's brother John Girtin (1773–1821) include two loans he made to Thomas Girtin during the trip. The records are transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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