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Works Thomas Girtin after Edward Dayes

Hereford Cathedral, from the River Wye


Primary Image: TG0155: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) after Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Hereford Cathedral, from the River Wye, 1793, graphite, watercolour, gum arabic and scratching out on wove paper, 35.6 × 47.6 cm, 14 × 18 ¾ in. Hereford Museum and Art Gallery (2916).

Photo courtesy of Herefordshire Museum Service, Hereford Museum & Gallery (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Hereford Cathedral, from the River Wye
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour, gum arabic and scratching out on wove paper
35.6 × 47.6 cm, 14 × 18 ¾ in

‘T. Girtin 1793’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View; The Welsh Borders: Herefordshire and Worcestershire

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
109 as 'Hereford Cathedral, From the River'; '1795'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2015


'Gregory'; bought from him by J. Palser & Sons (stock no.18498); bought by Charles Anthony Benn, 19 August 1924; presented to the Gallery, 1936

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1953a, no.5


Bury, 1959, p.4

About this Work

Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak read the inscription on this view of Hereford Cathedral from the south east as ‘T. Girtin 1795’ and almost certainly misdated the work by two years (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.145). Careful examination of the date shows that the upper part of the ‘3’ collides with one of the horizontal bands of dark pigment used by Girtin to articulate the gentle ripples of the river, and this effectively changes the number into a ‘5’. Looking at the stylistic evidence, the earlier date certainly makes greater sense. As with A Distant View of Hereford Cathedral (TG0166), which shows a similar view, the artist adapted a series of conventions derived from his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). These include an overarching tree in a darkened foreground, a carefully lit architectural middle ground with the buildings placed as a simple band, and a fluid skyscape. Other features, such as the rapid hatching in the foliage and the horizontal bands of the water, are again familiar features of works executed by Girtin during his apprenticeship to Dayes, such as Rochester Castle, from the River Medway (TG0057).

Hereford Cathedral, from the River

Even though it has not been possible to trace the source of Girtin’s work, it is clear that the artist did not travel to Hereford at this point in his career and it is almost certain that the work was based on a composition by Dayes. The latter produced a series of watercolours of the cathedral and the river Wye following his visit in 1792 (see TG0070 figure 1), including a major exhibition piece (see figure 1), and it was presumably from a sketch made on that trip that Girtin developed his composition. The central tower was undergoing work at this time, following the collapse of the western tower in 1786, and Girtin’s view, like Dayes’ watercolours, shows it clad in scaffolding. This area of the drawing is particularly noteworthy, because perhaps for the first time in Girtin’s career the high quality of his pencil work shows through, confirming that his skill as a draughtsman predated his mastery of the watercolour medium, which was still heavily dependent on the example of Dayes. Girtin’s watercolour is also notable for the growing assurance of the artist’s treatment of figures, with a statuesque man with a fishing rod dominating the foreground and another with a boat hook crouching on the prow of a carefully depicted trow, the typical vessel of the river Wye.

1792 - 1793

A Distant View of Hereford Cathedral


(?) 1791

Rochester Castle, from the River Medway


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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