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Works Thomas Girtin

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1724: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East, 1800–01, graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 42.3 × 55.4 cm, 16 ⅝ × 21 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Fund (B2010.23).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
42.3 × 55.4 cm, 16 ⅝ × 21 ¾ in

‘Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Samuel William Reynolds: Dealer; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; The Scottish Borders

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East (TG1232)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2002, 2010 and 2020


Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835) (1803 list of works disposed of: 'Jedborough Abbey' sold with four other work for £50); bought by Elizabeth Weddell (née Ramsden) (1749–1831), December 1801; bequeathed to John Charles Ramsden (1788–1836); then by descent to Phyllida Gordon-Duff-Pennington (née Pennington-Ramsden); Sotheby’s, 11 July 1990, lot 91; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £286,000; ... Sotheby’s, 28 November 2002a, lot 16, £468,650; Andrew Clayton-Payne; bought from him, 2010

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1991, no.59; London, 1993, no.146; London, 2002, no.170


Bauer, 1998, p.70

About this Work

This exceptional watercolour, showing a view of the ruins of Jedburgh Abbey from the south east and the bridge over Jed Water, is the later of two versions of a composition that Girtin sketched on his visit to the Scottish Borders in 1796 (the other being TG1232). Jedburgh is situated on one of the main routes from England, and this, combined with the picturesque location of the abbey ruins overlooking the river, with the hills behind, helped to make it a popular subject with both artists and patrons. Indeed, Girtin developed at least six different compositions for the nine mature watercolours that depict Jedburgh, showing the abbey viewed from a position above (TG1229), from closer to (TG1231) and looking from the river, as here (TG1233). These were in addition to the two versions of the same view from the east that were made before his 1796 tour from a sketch by his early patron James Moore (1762–99) (TG0086 and TG0104). Possibly as many as five on-the-spot sketches from the 1796 tour also survive, including a detailed architectural study of the abbey from the south east, which carefully records the way that the parish church was fitted into the five western bays of the ruins (TG1227). Although the view in this watercolour was taken from slightly closer to, Girtin may still have referred to his study, though he would have required another sketch of the landscape setting, and the foreground in particular, to complete the scene. Also missing from the on-the-spot sketch is the curious feature of the distant spire that found its way into both versions of this composition so that it appears, confusingly, to be part of the abbey.1 This is the sort of detail that more traditional topographical artists such as Charles Catton (1728–98), who depicted a number of views of Jedburgh at this date, omitted or else made sure that their viewpoint did not allow such a misleading alignment of forms (see TG1233 figure 1).

The watercolour is one of two views of Jedburgh (the other being TG1725) that were bought by the early collector of Girtin’s work Elizabeth Weddell (1749–1831) (Smith, 2002a, pp.166–67; Morris, 2002a, p.257). They were part of a group of five late compositions that she purchased in December 1801 for £50 from Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who acted on behalf of the artist in his final years in a role somewhere between agent and dealer (Reynolds, Letter, 1803).2 The other Jedburgh view, showing just the village, is painted on a different scale, and the works clearly do not form a pair, which is a useful reminder that as a collector, rather than a patron (who commissioned works from the artist and thus had some element of input into their creation), Weddell’s interest was not primarily in the subject. The abbey remains the focus of this work, but it is its relationship with the surrounding landscape and the picturesque foreground that is the key, and it was presumably as an example of the artist’s work that the view was acquired. This watercolour is also slightly bigger than the village view, which conforms to the larger of the two standard sizes that Girtin supplied to Reynolds, 30.2 × 52.1 cm (11 ⅞ × 20 ½ in), and there is other evidence that this is a more upmarket commodity than was generally the case. As with the similarly scaled Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank (TG1233), Girtin was thus careful to chose a range of stable pigments, and this means that both works retain much of their colour and original freshness, and they also include a carefully worked foreground in which the figures play a significant role. Indeed the foreground, which Girtin generally painted with some dispatch with the intention of guiding the eye swiftly into the middle ground, is here articulated in such a way as to encourage an engagement with its complex geometry, and the composition as a whole is so thoroughly integrated and unified as to suggest an extra degree of labour in its production.

1797 - 1798

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East


1797 - 1798

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins


1796 - 1797

The West Front of Jedburgh Abbey


(?) 1800

Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank


1792 - 1793

Jedburgh Abbey, from the East


1792 - 1793

Jedburgh Abbey, from the East


(?) 1796

Jedburgh Abbey



The Village of Jedburgh


(?) 1800

Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank


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).
  2. 2 The letter detailing the sales of Girtin’s works by Reynolds is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1803 – Item 3).

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