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Works Thomas Girtin

Kelso Abbey, from the North West

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0270a: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Kelso Abbey, from the North West, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 12.4 × 8 cm, 4 ⅞ × 3 ⅛ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Kelso Abbey, from the North West
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
12.4 × 8 cm, 4 ⅞ × 3 ⅛ in
Object Type
Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; The Scottish Borders

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2019


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 80 or lot 83 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10' by 'Turner'; ... Charles Morland Agnew (1855–1931); his widow Evelyn Mary Agnew (d.1932); her posthumous sale, Christie’s, 24 March 1933, lot 18 as 'Loch Lomond; Kelso Abbey; and Corfe Castle, three in one frame'; bought by 'T. Agnew', £3 13s 6d; Thos. Agnew & Sons; John Ross; then by descent; Christie's, 2 July 2019, lot 178, £3,250

About this Work

This informal sketch-like watercolour shows the west end of the abbey of Kelso in the Scottish Borders, which then housed the local parish church amongst its ruined fabric. The watercolour is based on an outline drawing by Girtin that probably came from the collection of his important early patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (TG0270). Girtin’s drawing, in turn, was based on an engraving made after a watercolour by his older contemporary, Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), and the artist had certainly not visited Kelso by the probable date of its production. The watercolour is therefore one of thirty or so small copies, all painted on paper measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), that were produced for Monro around 1795–96. Many of these were acquired by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after the patron’s death and are now part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain, but this work was separated from the rest of the group and only reappeared on the art market in 2019, along with a comparable view of Corfe Castle (TG0365a). The two works were once framed with a third small watercolour, of Loch Lomond (TG0873), and all three appear to have been made for Monro. Any doubts about the attribution of the watercolours on the grounds of quality are allayed by the fact that the view of Corfe is also based on a pencil drawing that is clearly by Girtin himself (TG0365).

Samuel Middiman (1751–1831) and William Byrne (1743–1805), after Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), etching and engraving, 'The Monastery at Kelso' for <i>The Antiquities of Great Britain</i>, vol.1, pl.25, 1 September 1780, 25.9 × 20.3 cm, 10 ¼ × 8 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

It has been suggested that Monro may have had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce watercolours such as this (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). But, though its small scale certainly suits the watercolour to reproduction as a book illustration, its rapid execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate that it was produced as a different kind of commodity. The subjects chosen for this informal sketch-like treatment certainly do not follow any obvious pattern, other than being generally amongst the lesser known of the nation’s medieval monuments. Indeed, Monro was unsystematic in his commissions, and it may be that there was nothing that united the group other than the fact that Girtin’s outlines provided a ready resource from which sketch-like watercolours might be rapidly produced.

(?) 1795

Kelso Abbey, from the North West


1795 - 1796

A Distant View of Corfe Castle


1795 - 1796

Loch Lomond


1794 - 1795

A Distant View of Corfe Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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