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Works Thomas Girtin after Edward Dayes

Lancaster Castle and Priory Church, Seen with the Old Bridge over the River Lune

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0229: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Lancaster Castle and Priory Church, Seen with the Old Bridge over the River Lune, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 7.6 × 11.7 cm, 3 × 4 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: Edward Dayes (1763–1804), The Old Bridge, Lancaster, 1791, graphite and watercolour on paper, 14 × 21.5 cm, 5 ½ × 8 ½ in. Private Collection (Christie's, 14 December 1976, lot 44).

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F02878-0003 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Lancaster Castle and Priory Church, Seen with the Old Bridge over the River Lune
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
7.6 × 11.7 cm, 3 × 4 ⅝ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; The Lake District

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2006


Robert Nesham (1846–1928); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 23 July 1928, lot 37 as one of four by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Ellis and Smith', £27 6s; A. N. Gilbey; his sale, Christie’s, 26 April 1940, lot 203 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Spink & Son Ltd, London, £23 2s; Revd. P. A. Britton; his sale, Christie’s, 6 March 1973, lot 77 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Spink & Son Ltd, London, 420 gns the pair; Douglas D. Everett; Christie’s, 16 November 2006, lot 60i as by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of Lancaster Castle and Priory Church, seen with the old bridge over the river Lune prior to its demolition in 1802, is likely to have been amongst the sixty ‘Coloured Drawings on Cards’ sold from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83). A group of the cards was bought by Girtin’s collaborator at Monro’s home, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), and they now form part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. This watercolour was attributed to Turner until its sale in 2006, but, as with the majority of the ‘Coloured Drawings’ in the Turner Bequest, it is clearly the work of Girtin.This is not entirely surprising given that Turner made a detailed sketch of the church and castle from a similar viewpoint during his 1797 northern tour (Tate, Turner Bequest XXXV 64). The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were mainly executed around 1795–96 after a set of outline drawings that Girtin mainly copied from the sketches of his first significant patron, the amateur artist James Moore (1762–99).

However, this example, one of three views of Lancaster, is derived from a composition by Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and it follows very closely a dated watercolour from 1791 (see the source image above), even down to the figures in the boat on the river. Although this was produced during the period in which Girtin was apprenticed to Dayes, it is unlikely that he copied it at this time. Monro’s posthumous sale included numerous ‘Coloured sketches’ by Dayes as well as a drawing that is listed as showing Lancaster (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 44). In all probability it was at his home at the Adelphi in London around 1794–95 that Girtin made a full-scale outline drawing from Dayes’ composition, prior to making the coloured card discussed here. Rather than copying large exhibition watercolours such as the view of Lancaster that Dayes produced in 1794 (see TG0358 figure 1), which was engraved in 1797, Girtin worked from the humbler colour sketches and outlines that predominated in Monro’s collection, and it may be that in this instance we can be reasonably certain that the aforementioned work by Dayes was the source for Girtin’s commission.

It is possible that Monro may have had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce small-scale watercolours such as this, but their rapid, even careless execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate a different kind of commodity. Indeed, the subjects that were chosen for this informal sketch-like treatment do not follow any obvious pattern, either by geography or building type, that might have made for a thematically unified publication. It may be that there is nothing that unites the group other than that Girtin’s outlines after the sketches of Moore, Dayes and others provided a ready resource from which sketch-like watercolours might be rapidly produced.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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