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Works Thomas Girtin

Jedburgh from the River, with the Abbey Beyond

1800 - 1801

Primary Image: TG1723: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Jedburgh from the River, with the Abbey Beyond, 1800–01, graphite, watercolour, bodycolour, stopping out and scratching out on laid paper, 47 × 62.2 cm, 18 ½ × 24 ½ in. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (NGI.2120).

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Jedburgh from the River, with the Abbey Beyond
1800 - 1801
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour, bodycolour, stopping out and scratching out on laid paper
47 × 62.2 cm, 18 ½ × 24 ½ in

‘Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Commissioned from Thomas Girtin; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; River Scenery; The Scottish Borders

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
253 as 'Jedburgh Abbey'; '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2015


Edward Lascelles (1764–1814); then by descent to Henry Lascelles, 4th Earl of Harewood (1824–92); his sale, possibly Christie’s, 1 May 1858, lot 31 as 'A Ruined Abbey, with cottage and a bridge'; bought by 'Colnaghi', 20 gns; Foster's, 26 March 1859, lot 13 as 'Jedburgh Bridge and Abbey, from Lord Harewood’s collection'; William Smith (1808–76) (lent to London, 1861); presented to the Gallery, 1872

Exhibition History

(?) Royal Academy, London, 1800, no.418 as ’Jedburgh’; London, 1861, no.29; New York, 1967, no.70; Dublin, 1997, no.11


Davies, 1924, pl.39; Harivel and Goacher, 1997, p.12

About this Work

This sadly faded view of Jedburgh Abbey, seen from the south bank of Jed Water, has not hitherto been associated with Edward Lascelles (1764–1814), but there is little doubt that it was commissioned by Girtin’s most significant late patron around 1800. The evidence that it was the ‘Ruined Abbey, with cottage and a bridge’ that was sold from the Lascelles family collection in 1858 (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 May 1858, lot 31) includes the fact that it is the same size as another commission, On the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey (TG1554), which is the only other work by Girtin on paper with the unusual measurements of 18 ½ × 24 ½ in (47 × 62.2 cm). Moreover, the work was listed in a later sale as ‘Jedburgh Bridge and Abbey, from Lord Harewood’s collection’ (Exhibitions: Foster’s, 26 March 1859, lot 13), and the watercolour’s faded condition also reinforces the possibility that it came from the Lascelles collection. The 1858 sale was thus said to have been occasioned by the condition of the fifteen works, which, after over half a century of display on the walls of the family’s London townhouse in Hanover Square, were shadows of their former selves. A little more colour has survived here, compared with On the River Wharfe, suggesting that in this case, the fading was less down to Girtin’s choice of fugitive pigments than the circumstances of the work’s display, which so often wrought havoc with the larger framed works. Nonetheless, the pencil underdrawing clearly shows through, the sky has gone, and the reds and ochres have become too dominant, at the expense of the greens of the foliage. All of this is a great pity, because I suspect that this carefully composed combination of a picturesque river scene, an unusually prominent figure group and a grand monastic ruin originally created a dramatic impact that was comparable to that of a slightly smaller view, Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East (TG1724). Indeed, the fine condition of that work gives us some idea of the original appearance of the faded watercolour. 

Most of Lascelles’ commissions from Girtin are Yorkshire scenes, but the earliest show views in North Wales and there is at least one other that, like this watercolour, seems to have been derived from a sketch made on the artist’s 1796 tour to the north east and the Scottish Borders (TG1104). The fact that there is a dated view of Jedburgh Abbey from Jed Water produced in 1801 (TG1722) does not necessarily mean that the artist returned to the area later in his career, therefore. Indeed for various reasons I suspect that the finished watercolour is a composite image made from more than one sketch. My starting point here is that, as Tom Girtin (1913–94) has pointed out, the full extent of the southern flank of the abbey church as shown in the watercolour is not actually visible from the viewpoint adopted by Girtin close to the bridge on the south bank of Jed Water. As his photograph demonstrates (Girtin Archive, 35), the houses and the bridge would have blocked any view of the ruins apart from the most easterly bays of the choir and the crossing tower. A print published in 1793 after a drawing by Charles Catton (1728–98) showing a view of the full extent of the abbey from the south east reinforces the point (see figure 1). It seems that Girtin painted the view of the abbey church from one drawing, presumably the detailed colour sketch catalogued as TG1227, whilst another drawing taken from close to the bridge was used for the complex picturesque grouping of houses in the foreground. We can be reasonably certain that such a sketch existed because all of the individual elements of Girtin’s picturesque foreground are to be found in the same relative positions as in the print after Catton’s earlier view. Clearly they were not invented and are shown with a clarity and a degree of detail that would not have been apparent in a sketch taken from a viewpoint that showed the full extent of the abbey church. The earlier print also suggests that women washing clothes were a common sight on this stretch of the river, and this detail was not invented by Girtin either, though arguably his figures are rather closer to those found in one of the prints after Marco Ricci (1676–1730) (see figure 2) that he copied on a number of occasions.

1800 - 1801

On the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey


1800 - 1801

Jedburgh Abbey, from the South East


1798 - 1799

Bamburgh Castle



Jedburgh Abbey, from Jed Water


(?) 1796

Jedburgh Abbey


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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