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Works Thomas Girtin

Jedburgh Abbey

(?) 1796

Primary Image: TG1227: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Jedburgh Abbey, (?) 1796, graphite and watercolour on paper, 20.8 × 27 cm, 8 ³⁄₁₆ × 10 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Jedburgh Abbey
(?) 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
20.8 × 27 cm, 8 ³⁄₁₆ × 10 ⅝ in

‘Jedburgh Abbey. Thos Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; The Scottish Borders

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Iolo Aneurin Williams (1890–1962); then by descent; Sotheby’s, 12 April 1995, lot 73, £3,910; bought by David Thomson

About this Work

This coloured sketch of the partially ruined Jedburgh Abbey, seen from a close viewpoint to the south east, was probably made in 1796 on Girtin’s first independent sketching tour. Only one of the twenty or so pencil drawings and on-the-spot colour sketches that survive from the trip is dated, but it is still broadly possible to trace Girtin’s progress through Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders from the titles of the works that he sent to the 1797 Royal Academy exhibition, and from the dated watercolours that were subsequently produced from these and other untraced sketches. Although no watercolour is known to have been executed from this drawing, it is close to two other views of Jedburgh Abbey from the south east, one painted around 1798 (TG1232) and the other later, about 1800 (TG1724). Though the abbey is depicted from further away, one can imagine that the architectural detail included here might have been of use in those other works’ production, even if the artist also depended on another, untraced sketch made at the same time.

This said, one of the sketches of Jedburgh appears to predate Girtin’s visit to the town, presumably having been taken from the work of another artist (TG0188), and there are a number of factors that make me wonder whether this drawing too was not made at an earlier date from a secondary source. The inscription, for instance, is very close to the form seen in the earlier Jedburgh sketch, and the adoption of a close viewpoint that carefully excludes any of the surrounding buildings is typical of the way in which Girtin’s earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), selected a view that displayed a building’s architectural details without interruptions. Girtin, in contrast, was much more concerned to show the ruined building in its broader landscape context, and this includes showing the distant spire of another building, even though it adds a confusing element to the composition of his watercolours (TG1722 and TG1724).1 The omission in this drawing of a spire straying into view from another building is typical of Moore’s approach, and, given that Girtin certainly used Moore’s 1792 on-the-spot sketch of Jedburgh (see TG0104 figure 1) to produce two small watercolour views of the abbey from the east (TG0086 and TG0104), it is not prudent to discount the possibility that this sketch too was copied from a lost drawing by Moore. On balance, though, I am still minded to stick with the 1796 date. Placing the drawing in the company of the other twenty or so sketches from the trip illustrates how much it has in common with them, not least in the way that the colour has been used to add only a few highlights to a detailed pencil drawing that bears many of the hallmarks of Girtin’s style of that date.

1797 - 1798

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East


1800 - 1801

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East



Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank



Jedburgh Abbey, from Jed Water


1800 - 1801

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East


1792 - 1793

Jedburgh Abbey, from the East


1792 - 1793

Jedburgh Abbey, from the East


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 Not a part of another church, but the steeple added to Newgate in 1791 (Dennison, 2013, p.296).

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