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Works Thomas Girtin

Glasgow High Street: Looking towards the Cathedral

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0364: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Glasgow High Street: Looking towards the Cathedral, 1795–96, graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 7.7 × 12.1 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 11 (D36638).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Glasgow High Street: Looking towards the Cathedral
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
7.7 × 12.1 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.817f


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as '"Rochester"' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pp.130–31, plate 65b

About this Work

This informal sketch-like view, looking towards Glasgow Cathedral, is part of a group of small-scale watercolours by Girtin in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain and it is based on one of the forty or so pencil outlines that are in the same collection (TG0296). Many of these were copied from the sketches of Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), though in this case the source for the image was an engraving after a watercolour by Thomas Hearne (1744–1817) (see source image TG0296), and Girtin certainly did not visit the site himself. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were produced for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) around 1795–96, and some sixty ‘Coloured Drawings on Cards’ were sold at his posthumous sale, where a number of examples were purchased by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) (Exhibitons: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83). This example is unusual only in the fact that it differs significantly from Girtin’s outline, 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 so that the natural recession is lost.

It is possible that Monro may have had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce small-scale watercolours such as this, but their rapid, even careless execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate a different kind of commodity. Indeed, the subjects that were chosen for this informal sketch-like treatment do not follow any obvious pattern, either by geography or building type, that might have made for a thematically unified publication. It may be that there is nothing that unites the group other than that Girtin’s outlines after the work of Moore, Hearne and others provided a ready resource from which a different sort of sketch-like watercolour could easily be produced.

The paper is discoloured as a result of excessive exposure to light whilst on long-term exhibition.

1794 - 1795

Glasgow High Street, Looking towards the Cathedral


1794 - 1795

Glasgow High Street, Looking towards the Cathedral


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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