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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

Icklesham Church

(?) 1795

Primary Image: TG0337: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Icklesham Church, (?) 1795, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original plain mount, 16.4 × 22.5 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.4.507).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Icklesham Church
(?) 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original plain mount
16.4 × 22.5 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ⅞ in
Mount Dimensions
19.3 × 25.9 cm, 7 ½ × 10 ⅛ in

‘Icklesham Church in Sussex’ on the back of the mount, by James Moore

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001; Gallery Website


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, £12; sold through the Leicester Galleries, London, August 1912, £26 5s; John Fletcher Haworth (c.1851–1922); ... Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1967, as by Thomas Hearne; bought by Paul Mellon (1907–99); presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1912, no.32


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.209 as 'Untraced'; YCBA Online as 'Imitator of' Thomas Girtin (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This watercolour showing All Saints’ Church at Icklesham, in Sussex, was at one time attributed to Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), and more recently it has been described by the website of the Yale Center for British Art as the work of an ‘Imitator of Thomas Girtin’, and it was not even included in Susan Morris’ catalogue of the collection (Morris, 1986). However, although the watercolour has its weaknesses and is stylistically old-fashioned for a drawing that must have been made in 1795 or later, the fact that it is based on a sketch by the artist’s first significant patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99) (TG0337a), suggests that the attribution of the work to Girtin, proposed originally by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, may be correct (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.209). Not least, the fact that Moore’s original sketch was enhanced by Girtin himself suggests the artist’s involvement here, even though the prospect of copying the work of his patron was by this date clearly something of a chore, encouraging him to revert to the simplified style he had employed for the works after Moore’s sketches in the winter of 1792–93. And that perhaps gets to the crux of the problem: 1795 feels too late for this drawing. If the watercolour had not been produced after a sketch inscribed ‘Sept 5th. 95’, one might be happy to see it described as one of the earlier works that Girtin produced for Moore, such as Pevensey Castle: The North Tower with the Gatehouse in the Distance (TG0218), which similarly employs a rather bland palette and a simplified, even crude approach to forms. The alternative scenarios are even more implausible, however: an attribution to Hearne is untenable; Moore was incapable of achieving anything like this level in his use of the watercolour medium; and the idea that the patron misdated his sketch just overcomplicates the issue. On balance, it therefore seems that a commission at this date to produce a small-scale version of the sketch of an amateur failed to inspire Girtin to attempt anything more than going through the motions.

Moore was clearly taken by the fine church at Icklesham and he made two detailed drawings of it on his 1795 tour (TG0337a and TG0337b). This view concentrates on the aisleless nave, with its massive roof dating from around 1100, together with the later north tower, all of which remain substantially unchanged.


Icklesham Church


1792 - 1793

Pevensey Castle: The North Tower with the Gatehouse in the Distance



Icklesham Church


(?) 1795

The East End of Icklesham Church


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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