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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Flint Castle

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0281: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Flint Castle, 1795–96, pen and ink on wove paper, 13.8 × 20.7 cm, 5 ⅜ × 8 ⅛ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1191).

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

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Flint Castle, 22 August 1791, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 17 × 21.1 cm, 6 ¹¹⁄₁₆ × 8 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.667).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Flint Castle
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Pen and ink on wove paper
13.8 × 20.7 cm, 5 ⅜ × 8 ⅛ in

‘Flint Castle’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; North Wales

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
262 as '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Thomas Calvert Girtin (1801–74); then by descent to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); 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.36

About this Work

Although Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak dated this pen and ink drawing of Flint Castle in North Wales to Girtin’s visit in 1798, it appears to have been made earlier after a sketch by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see the source image above) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.170). Moore, Girtin’s first significant patron, toured North Wales in the summer of 1791 and his oblique view of the castle on the estuary of the river Dee, which was not then silted up, is dated 22 August. Girtin’s drawing is roughly the same size as Moore’s sketch and it contains the same elements, with the North East Tower of the thirteenth-century castle dominating the foreground and the chimneys of the lead smelting works belching out smoke in the distance. However, there is no evidence that this drawing was ever in Moore’s collection and nor did Girtin reuse the composition for one of the seventy or so small watercolours that he made after such sketches by Moore, which included a number of North Welsh scenes, such as Conwy Castle, Looking West (TG0107) and The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle (TG0133). Moreover, closer inspection reveals more differences between Moore’s sketch and Girtin’s version of the composition than were commonly the case. Thus, Girtin cuts off the upper and lower parts of Moore’s view to bring the scene closer to the viewer, but he also broadens the form of the tower, giving it a strong presence, and he opens out the oblique view of the rest of the castle and the distant factories so that they curve across the sheet to create an altogether more attractive composition. All of this poses the same question raised by Girtin’s pen and ink drawings of the nearby Hawarden Castle, which Moore sketched on the same day (TG0243 and TG0274). Namely, could Girtin have made such changes simply by rethinking and reworking Moore’s composition, in which case the drawing of Flint Castle probably dates from around 1795–96 on stylistic grounds, or does what amounts to the adoption of a new viewing point suggest that he visited the site for himself in 1798 and made this drawing on that occasion, as Girtin and Loshak originally thought? On balance, I tend towards the former suggestion, not least because Girtin so rarely used pen and ink for sketches made on the spot and also because the North East Tower is in reality much closer to Moore’s more attenuated form. However, as with the views of Hawarden in the same medium, it is difficult to make a definitive judgement when the function of the drawing is also unclear.

Flint Castle, North Wales

The discovery during the production of this catalogue of a small watercolour by Edward Dayes (1763–1804) of Flint Castle that also appears to be based on Moore’s 1791 sketch (see figure 1) raises another possibility: namely that Girtin’s outline was based on a composition that he saw whilst working for his master. The upright format of the composition and its close adherence to Moore’s drawing still mean that Girtin would have had to make significant changes to his source, and any connection with the outline still begs the same questions about its status as a copy or an on-the-spot sketch.

1792 - 1793

Conwy Castle, Looking West


1792 - 1793

The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle


1795 - 1796

Hawarden Castle


1795 - 1796

Hawarden Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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