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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

Hawarden Castle

(?) 1798

Primary Image: TG1350a: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), Hawarden Castle, graphite and watercolour on paper, 26.7 × 42.5 cm, 10 ½ × 16 ¾ in. Private Collection.

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Hawarden Castle
(?) 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
26.7 × 42.5 cm, 10 ½ × 16 ¾ in
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
North Wales; Castle Ruins

Hawarden Castle (TG1350)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Girtin Archive Photograph


Spink's, 1953

About this Work

This view of Hawarden Castle near Chester in North Wales, titled ‘Weeds on the Wall’, is known only from a black and white photograph found in a file in the Girtin Archive (14). Here Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) assembled images of ‘Weeds’, watercolours that had been attributed to Girtin and that he thought might damage the artist’s reputation if not challenged. Not surprisingly, the watercolour was excluded from the catalogue of Girtin’s work that was published in 1954 and it has not subsequently featured anywhere in the literature on the artist (Girtin and Loshak, 1954). The fact that the subject of the work was not known to the artist’s descendent may have played a part in its rejection and it was only possible to identify the ruins from a sketch (see TG1350) that emerged at an auction in 1994. The outline drawing, enhanced with pen and ink, shares the same dimensions as this watercolour, and, as overlaying images of the two works demonstrates, it replicates the composition of the sketch even down to such small details as the position of the two goats at the top of the steps leading into the castle. The outline drawing is not particularly typical of Girtin’s manner of sketching, but on balance I am inclined to accept it as a being executed on the spot in 1798, whilst this watercolour appears to be by another hand working directly from the earlier sketch. Thus, although there are areas that at least betray a knowledge of Girtin’s characteristically economical use of washes of colour to depict the patterns found on ancient masonry, the more substantial areas of foliage are fussy and mannered, and they convey no sense of depth or structure. I am therefore no more minded to accept an attribution to Thomas Girtin than his earlier cataloguers, though the subsequent discovery of the on-the-spot sketch might suggest something more specific than the vague tag of ‘follower of’ or ‘pupil of’ for this watercolour. In particular, I am intrigued by the inscription on the back of the outline which reads ‘From my Brother’s Portfolio’ and is signed with the initials of John Girtin (1773–1821). We can say with some certainty, therefore, that it is one of the sketches that the artist’s brother appropriated from the studio after the death of Thomas and it may even have been amongst the unspecified ‘Sketches’ that John records as receiving ‘16. 16’ for on 21 February 1803 (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 Could it follow from this that it was John Girtin who was responsible for copying the outline sketch when it was in his possession and that this watercolour is the outcome of his efforts to apply washes of colour in approximation of his brother’s manner of working?

(?) 1798

Hawarden Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The financial records of John Girtin covering the income he received from the Eidometropolis and the twenty aquatints of the Picturesque Views in Paris, together with a detailed account of the expenses from both projects as well as various loans he made to Thomas Girtin, are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 2).

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