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Works Thomas Girtin

Lancaster Castle, from the River Lune

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0357: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Lancaster Castle, from the River Lune, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.7 × 12.2 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 13 (D36640).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Lancaster Castle, from the River Lune
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.7 × 12.2 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The Lake District

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.817h


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as '"Windsor"' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.68a; Tate Online as 'Lancaster' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This informal sketch-like view, looking across the river Lune to Lancaster Castle, is part of a group of twenty or so small-scale watercolours by Girtin in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain; it is based on a pencil outline (TG0356) that is one of forty in the same collection. Many of these were copied from the sketches of Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), though in this case the source for the image was probably an untraced sketch by Girtin’s 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) around 1795–96. Some sixty ‘Coloured Drawings on Cards’ were sold from his collection in all (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83), including sheets bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). This characteristic example is unusual only in the fact that it differs somewhat from the Girtin outline, simplifying the foreground and changing the course of the river, though it still leaves the tower of the Priory Church of St Mary confusingly mixed in with the castle buildings to the left.

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. And 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.

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

1794 - 1795

Lancaster Castle, from the River Lune


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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