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Works Thomas Girtin

Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End (page 33 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1612: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End, (?) 1800, graphite on paper, 21.7 × 14.6 cm, 8 ½ × 5 ¾ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.32).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End (page 33 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
21.7 × 14.6 cm, 8 ½ × 5 ¾ in

‘Gisbro’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘63’ lower left

Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End (TG1697)
Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End (TG1698)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
430i as 'Guisborough Priory, Yorkshire'; '1801'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2022


Sale at Platt Vicarage, Rusholme, Manchester, 1898; sketchbook bought by 'Shepherd'; then by descent to F. W. Shepherd; his sale, Sotheby’s, 7 July 1977, lot 46; bought by Baskett and Day; bought by the Gallery, 1977


Hardie, 1938–39, no.13, p.93; NACF, Report, 1977, p.119

About this Work

This pencil sketch, showing the late thirteenth-century east end of the priory church of Guisborough in North Yorkshire, is located on page thirty-three of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600–1625). It was produced whilst Girtin was either travelling to or staying with Henry Phipps, 1st Earl of Mulgrave (1755–1831), at Mulgrave Castle, near the coast, probably in the summer of 1800 after the artist’s visit to Edward Lascelles (1764–1814) at Harewood House. It was Lascelles who commissioned the first and larger (TG1698) of two significant watercolours that Girtin realised from the drawing (the other being TG1697). No doubt it was also the patron who stipulated a return to a subject type that Girtin had not treated recently, since, although the ruined east end is an impressive fragment, the site was not a regular destination for picturesque tourists or artists. As David Hill has argued, the Lascelles family were long associated with North Yorkshire and the patron’s ‘ancestors were early benefactors of the priory’, and Girtin responded with a composition that looked back to his experience of working for the antiquarian market in the early part of his career (Hill, 1999, p.63). The view of the east end of Walsingham Priory that Girtin made for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (TG0244) from an outline drawing by another early patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), provided the model for Girtin’s sketch and, ultimately, the watercolours as well.

Guisborough Priory

The sketch is evidence of the hybrid nature of the Book of Drawings and the complex range of functions it performed. As the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, the ‘book’ initially took the form of a number of gatherings of papers by Girtin, rather than being bought as a ready-made commodity (Bower, 2002, p.141). Prior to being bound sometime after Girtin's death – the end papers have an '1803' watermark – the 'book' would have looked very different when used for sketching views such as this on the spot. It is not clear if it was at this point that some of the copies of earlier drawings were added (see TG1601 and TG1620), but if Girtin had included them amongst his on-the-spot sketches it would strengthen the case that it was originally created as much as a model book to attract commissions. Moreover, given that no fewer than sixteen sheets similar to this were detached from the book and sold to sympathetic collectors for prices ranging from a guinea (£1 1s) for a pencil drawing to £8 8s for an on-the-spot colour sketch, Girtin may have also had this function in mind from the outset. The two watercolours made from this drawing typically keep close to the original sketch, since Girtin’s on-the-spot study of Guisborough was not just produced as a record of a place but was carefully composed so that it would have provided potential patrons with a good idea of what a finished work might look like. This may have been something that Lascelles himself did not need, because, with the exception of this sketch, none of the views in the Book of Drawings were used as the basis of the fifteen or so watercolours he commissioned from the artist.

Girtin’s view of the east end of Guisborough priory church is, as far as I know, unique in being the subject of variants by both of his great contemporaries, John Constable (1776–1837) (see TG1697 figure 1) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) (see figure 1). The latter drawing, which dates from 1801 and was detached from the Fonthill Sketchbook (Tate, Turner Bequest (XLVII)), was produced on the spot, rather than being a copy of Girtin’s sketch, but so close is it that it seems that Turner must have been inspired either by the original or by one of the watercolours produced from it.


Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End



Guisborough Priory: The Ruined East End


1795 - 1796

The Ruined East End of Walsingham Priory Church


(?) 1801

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea


(?) 1801

Middleham Village, with the Castle Beyond


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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