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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Fountains Abbey

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0118: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Fountains Abbey, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on paper, on an original washline mount, 16.5 × 21.6 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F03344-0015 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Fountains Abbey
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper, on an original washline mount
16.5 × 21.6 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ½ in

'Fountain's Abbey. Yorksc.' lower centre on the mount, by James Moore; 'begun 1204, finished in about 40 years' on the back of the mount, by James Moore

Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive


James Moore (1762–99); his widow, Mary Moore (née Howett) (d.1835); bequeathed to Anne Miller (1802–90); bequeathed to Edward Mansel Miller (1829–1912); bequeathed to Helen Louisa Miller (1842–1915); bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 1912, £20; exchanged with the Leicester Galleries, London, November 1912; bought by J. Palser & Sons (stock no.17189); bought by 'Ponchan', 14 October 1918 with TG0136; ... Walter C. Hetherington (d.1978); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 14 February 1978, no.52; bought by Spink & Son Ltd, London, £2,200

Exhibition History

Palser Gallery, 1914, no.80; Spink’s, London, 1978, no.10


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.208

About this Work

This view by Girtin of Fountains Abbey, taken from the south east, was probably made after an untraced sketch by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), and Girtin did not visit the site himself until 1798 or 1799. Girtin’s earliest patron toured this part of Yorkshire in September 1789, but, even though a view of Fountains was not amongst the eight Yorkshire scenes Moore included in his Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (Moore, 1792), the circumstantial evidence suggests that Girtin based his work on a sketch by the amateur. In terms of scale, style and the mode of its presentation, with a washline mount inscribed with the title by the patron, it is typical of the more than seventy works the young artist produced after the amateur’s rather mundane sketches. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing watercolours generally measuring, as in this case, roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm) (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 The majority of the drawings remained in the ownership of Moore’s descendants until the collection was broken up after 1912, when the artist’s great-grandson, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), briefly acquired this work.

In contrast to the dramatically occluded interior view of the monumental ruins of Fountains Abbey that Girtin painted after visiting Yorkshire for himself in 1796 (TG1508b), the scene based on the view of another artist includes a more substantial part of the east end of the building. The antiquarian chose a viewpoint that includes, from left to right, Huby’s Tower (shown in shadow), part of the choir and the celebrated Chapel of Nine Altars with the great east window in the centre, whereas only the last of these is visible in Girtin’s later, more partial, view. For the antiquarian, the concern was to include as much of the building as possible, and Girtin complements this with an even light that displays the different parts with a clarity that is not compromised by the pictorial effects that transformed the antiquarian emphasis of some of the Yorkshire views produced for Moore, such as Byland Abbey (TG0087) and Helmsley Castle (TG0122). Whether this was at the behest of the patron is impossible to say, but there may be a correlation between the importance of the building as a piece of architecture and the level to which Girtin was free to develop his raw materials pictorially, with ruins such as Kirkstall (TG0144) and Fountains Abbey treated rather more circumspectly.

1798 - 1799

An Interior View of Fountains Abbey: The East Window from the Presbytery


1792 - 1793

Byland Abbey


1792 - 1793

Helmsley Castle


1792 - 1793

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).

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