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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Helmsley Castle

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0122: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Helmsley Castle, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 15.6 × 21 cm, 6 ⅛ × 8 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Helmsley Castle
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original washline mount
15.6 × 21 cm, 6 ⅛ × 8 ¼ in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘Helmsley Castle, Yorks.e’ on the original mount, by James Moore

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 1997


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, £15; given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; the property of a Lady; her sale, Sotheby’s, 13 November 1997, lot 45, £19,550

Exhibition History

Manchester, 1857, no.72; London, 1912, no.48; Cambridge, 1920, no.5; Sheffield, 1953, no.36; London, 1962a, no.111


Gibson, 1916, p.220; Bryant, 2005, pp.66–67

About this Work

This view of the imposing interior western wall of the thirteenth-century keep of Helmsley Castle was almost certainly made after an untraced sketch by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), and Girtin did not visit the site himself. Girtin produced at least six watercolours after sketches made by his earliest patron on a tour of Yorkshire in the autumn of 1789, and, although there is no record of Moore visiting Helmsley, he was certainly in the area; moreover, this is typical in every respect of the 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 on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), each of which, as here, was carefully mounted and inscribed (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 a great-grandson of the artist, Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), acquired this work.

Snipe Shooting, Winter

In contrast to the somewhat bland views of the castle ruins of South Wales that Girtin painted for Moore around 1792–93, Yorkshire scenes such as Byland Abbey (TG0087) include a greater variety of weather and light effects. Indeed, it is difficult to recall another example of a topographical view of a castle being rendered in winter time; in general, snow scenes were rare in British landscape art at this time, and Girtin himself only once more attempted anything other than a summer scene (TG1501). The majority of winter scenes were hunting subjects, as this was the main season for the activity, and perhaps the best known exponent of snowy views of the countryside was Girtin’s contemporary and later friend George Morland (1763–1804), who may have provided the artist with the inspiration for this work (see figure 1). Certainly, Moore’s sketch, made in September, would not have included any weather details that might have suggested such a treatment, and Girtin’s choice of a bright winter’s day presumably reflected a growing ambition to add another element to Moore’s bald memoranda of architectural facts.

1792 - 1793

Byland Abbey



The Frozen Watermill, from William Cowper’s ‘The Task’


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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