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Works Thomas Girtin

Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church

(?) 1796

Primary Image: TG1105: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church, (?) 1796, graphite, brush and ink and watercolour on wove paper, 37.6 × 25 cm, 14 ¾ × 9 ⅞ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1937.36).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church
Date
(?) 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite, brush and ink and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
37.6 × 25 cm, 14 ¾ × 9 ⅞ in
Inscription

‘Holy Island’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Durham and Northumberland; Monastic Ruins

Collection
Versions
Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church (TG1106)
Catalogue Number
TG1105
Girtin & Loshak Number
164i as 'Lindisfarne Priory (called also St. Cuthbert's Cathedral, Holy Island)'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and February 2020

Provenance

Edward Cohen (1816–87); then by bequest to his niece, Isabella Oswald (1838–1905); her posthumous sale, Robins & Hine, 30 March 1905, lot unknown; bought by J. Palser & Sons, for Sir Edward Marsh (1872–1953); Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1937 (stock no.2281); bought by Margaret Pilkington (1891–1974); presented to the Gallery, 1937

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1937, no.148; Agnew's, 1953a, no.111 as ’Tintern Abbey’; London, 2002, no.84

Bibliography

Davies, 1924, p.26; Nugent, 2003, p.133

About this Work

This monochrome study of the interior of the ruins of the priory church at Lindisfarne in Northumberland, looking east from the nave, was almost certainly made in 1796 on Girtin’s first independent sketching tour. Only one of the twenty or so pencil drawings and on-the-spot colour sketches that survive from the trip is dated, but it is still broadly possible to trace Girtin’s progress through Yorkshire, Durham, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders from the titles of the works that he sent to the 1797 Royal Academy exhibition, and from the dated watercolours that were subsequently produced from these and other untraced sketches. The watercolour based on this sketch is not dated (TG1106), but two works with the title ‘St. Cuthbert’s Cathedral, Holy Island’ were shown at the Royal Academy in the following year (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1797, nos.434 and 763). Given that another interior view dated 1797 (TG1107) can be identified as being one of the two, there can be little doubt that this drawing and two other sketches of Lindisfarne (TG1109 and TG1112) were all made on the 1796 trip.

The on-the-spot drawings Girtin made on the 1796 trip are divided roughly equally between outlines in graphite and coloured sketches, with the latter further split between those that employ monochrome only and others using a fuller palette. As in the comparable earlier study of another architectural subject, The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral (TG1016), Girtin here uses a simple range of tones to capture the play of light and shade in a way that is not possible in an outline drawing. In this case, a wash of grey watercolour added to a pencil outline, enhanced with pen and ink, records the effect of an afternoon scene, with the sun coming from the south west. The fact that Girtin only occasionally sketched in monochrome in this way can be accounted for by the fact that the light conditions that prevailed for a travelling artist as he recorded a view would not necessarily be appropriate for a finished watercolour. In this instance, though, the watercolour follows the play of light and shade seen here, otherwise the artist would have had to improvise a suitable effect.

Lindisfarne, Holy Island: The Interior of the Priory Church

The same restricted palette was employed by Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) for his on-the-spot sketch of the interior of the ruins at Lindisfarne, made on his tour to the north east in the following year, 1797 (see figure 1). As on a number of occasions when sketching in York (see TG1655 figure 1), Durham (see TG1073 figure 1) and Warkworth (see TG1098 figure 1), Turner seems to have had Girtin’s earlier drawing in mind when he adopted the same viewpoint to work from, and it is likely that he studied his colleague’s sketches before setting out on his later tour, though he included more of the north aisle. Turner’s finished watercolours have not been traced, but it is highly unlikely that he followed Girtin’s example in another respect: the unconventional if not downright eccentric way that the arcade to the left is omitted in the version of the composition in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (TG1106), leaving the vaulting rib suspended without support.

On a technical note, the paper historian Peter Bower has identified the support used by Girtin as a white wove large post writing paper, made after 1794 by the Balston and Hollingworth Brothers Partnership at Turkey Mill, Maidstone, Kent, who were successors to James Whatman the Younger (1741–98) (Smith, 2002b, p.110; Bower, Report).

1797 - 1798

Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church

TG1106

1797

An Interior View of the Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory Church

TG1107

(?) 1796

An Exterior View of the Ruins of Lindisfarne Priory Church

TG1109

(?) 1796

Lindisfarne Castle

TG1112

(?) 1794

The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral

TG1016

1797 - 1798

Lindisfarne: An Interior View of the Ruins of the Priory Church

TG1106

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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