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Works Thomas Girtin after Thomas Hearne

Glasgow High Street, Looking towards the Cathedral

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0296: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), Glasgow High Street, Looking towards the Cathedral, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper, 14.3 × 22 cm, 5 ⅝ × 8 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII 1 (D36571).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: William Byrne (1743–1805) and Thomas Medland (active 1780–1833), after Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), etching and engraving, 'The Cathedral and Episcopal Palace at Glasgow' for The Antiquities of Great-Britain, vol.1, pl.13, 2 June 1783, 18.5 × 24.8 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Thomas Hearne (1744-1817)
  • Glasgow High Street, Looking towards the Cathedral
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
14.3 × 22 cm, 5 ⅝ × 8 ⅝ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View; Scottish View

Glasgow High Street: Looking towards the Cathedral (TG0364)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.460


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1238 as 'Sketch in Glasgow' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pp.130–31

About this Work

This view looking towards Glasgow Cathedral, with the episcopal palace to the left, is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), many of which were bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) and are now therefore to be found in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The majority were copied by Girtin from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), though in this case Girtin turned to an engraving after a view by Thomas Hearne (1744–1817) that was published in 1783 (see source image TG0296). Therefore, none of the drawings were made on the spot. The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with Turner, was employed at Monro’s home at the Adelphi to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card, measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), including fifteen or so that found a home in the Turner Bequest, and these may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron. The watercolour Girtin executed from this outline (TG0364) is uncharacteristic in one respect as it modifies his own drawing, to not particularly good effect, cutting the house to the right and turning it almost at a right angle to face the viewer.

Girtin had already completed two watercolour views of Glasgow cathedral from different drawings by Moore (TG0111 and TG0329) by this date, and he did not need to turn to Hearne for an image of the cathedral. However, Monro was an avid collector of Hearne’s work, owning as many as three hundred of his sketches and drawings, and he subscribed to Hearne’s Antiquities of Great-Britain (Hearne, 1786–1807), the first volume of which included ‘The Cathedral and Episcopal Palace at Glasgow’. It is likely that the choice of subject was down to the patron himself and that the copy of the print was made at his home. In contrast to Moore’s views, the professional artist employs a more complex composition that shows off the distinctive architectural elements of the cathedral in a picturesque setting with the surviving tower of the episcopal palace to the left. Girtin, it must be noted, omits the elegant figures included in the print.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (1792) (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

The paper is discoloured as a result of excessive exposure to light whilst on long-term exhibition. The differently toned areas (left and right) were protected by an earlier mount.

1794 - 1795

Glasgow High Street, Looking towards the Cathedral


1795 - 1796

Glasgow High Street: Looking towards the Cathedral


1792 - 1793

Glasgow Cathedral, from the North East


1794 - 1795

Glasgow Cathedral, from the South West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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