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Works Thomas Girtin

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0334: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.7 × 12.1 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX, 12 (D36639).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.7 × 12.1 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West (TG0144)
Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West (TG0335)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.817g


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as 'Kirkstall Abbey' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, p.131, pl.71a

About this Work

This view of the northern flank of the ruined abbey church of Kirkstall in Yorkshire is based on TG0335 and is one of twenty or so small-scale watercolours that Girtin made after outline drawings that he had copied from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (TG0264), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and Girtin certainly did not visit the site himself. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were produced for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), at whose posthumous sale they were purchased by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). Girtin painted another watercolour from the same composition by Moore (TG0144), and a comparison with that earlier commission, produced for the patron himself, is highly instructive. The drawing that Girtin painted for Moore may have been executed a few years earlier, when the artist was only about seventeen years old, but it is noticeably larger and more finished, and shows greater attention to the accurate depiction of architectural details. 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). Its small scale certainly suits it to reproduction as a book illustration, but it is its sketch-like character that most clearly distinguishes it from the Moore commission. Looking at the smaller, less formal view that Girtin created for Monro, one can therefore begin to appreciate the way in which the pencil sketch was simplified from Moore’s original drawing. It contains just enough information from which to produce a small sketch-like commodity, but not enough to create the more detailed view required by the antiquarian, Moore.

The paper is discoloured as a result of excessive exposure to light whilst on long-term exhibition. The differently toned areas, left and right, were protected by an earlier mount.

1794 - 1795

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West


1794 - 1795

Kidwelly Church, with the Castle Beyond


1792 - 1793

Kirkstall Abbey, from the North West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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