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Works Thomas Girtin after Unknown Artist

Louth Church

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG1029: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after an Unknown Artist, Louth Church, 1796–97, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original washline mount, 38.4 × 48.4 cm, 15 ⅛ × 19 in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.24-1934).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: Bartholomew Howlett (1767–1827), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), etching and engraving, 'Louth Church' for A Selection of Views in the County of Lincoln, 1 October 1799, 18.2 × 13.8 cm, 7 ⅛ × 5 ½ in. British Museum, London (1878,1214.520).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Unknown Artist
  • Louth Church
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, on an original washline mount
38.4 × 48.4 cm, 15 ⅛ × 19 in

‘Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Drawing for a Print; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Lincolnshire

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
149 as '1796'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


'Staines'; his sale, Christie's, 18 March 1831, lot 113; bought by 'Colnaghi', £12 1s 16d; ... Christie’s, 18 March 1879, lot 80 as ‘View of a Church’; bought by 'Vokins', 47 guineas (identified in the Palser Records as ‘Louth Church’); ... Rosetta d’Arblay Wood (née Burney) (1814–1910); then by descent to Edith Mary Burke Powell (Lady Powell, née Wood) (1848–1934); bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Exhibition History

Manchester, 1975, no.15; London, 1976, no.59; London, 1994, no.34; Chiba, 2002, no.17


V&A, 1935, p.24; Mayne, 1949, p.89, p.98; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.57; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.151

About this Work

This fine view of the east end of St James’ Church in Louth in Lincolnshire, with its magnificent steeple rising to almost a hundred metres, was engraved in 1799 by Bartholomew Howlett (1767–1827) for his publication A Selection of Views in the County of Lincoln (see the print after, above) (Howlett, 1805). Girtin visited Lincolnshire in 1794 in the company of his earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), and two of the views of Lincoln that he made for his patron after his own on-the-spot sketches were included by Howlett in Views in the County of Lincoln (TG1008 and TG1010). Many of the remaining eight views that were engraved after Girtin’s Lincolnshire scenes were made from sketches taken by other artists, including the amateur Thomas Espin (1767–1822), who also provided the professional with the source for one of his watercolours of the gateway of Thornton Abbey (TG1033). It was a common practice amongst publishers of topographical collections targeted at the antiquarian market to petition local amateur artists for material and then employ a professional artist to render it in a suitable form for engraving. Espin, who lived in Louth, produced a number of views of the town and church, now in the Hermitage Museum, St Petersburg, and it is possible that one of these provided Girtin with the source for his drawing. Indeed, this would help to explain the not entirely successful nature of the composition, which sees the church’s great length extended beyond credibility and its steeple seemingly detached from the main body of the building. On the other hand, the watercolour bears such a close resemblance to the series of detailed views of cathedrals that Girtin executed from sketches made on his 1794 trip to the Midland counties (such as TG1002 and TG0996) that I am inclined to believe that it was made after an untraced on-the-spot drawing after all, and that it was not therefore commissioned specifically for Howlett’s publication. This would also account for the differences between the watercolour and the print, which, though it otherwise follows the drawing closely, cuts the composition to the left and right, converting it into an upright format.

An intriguing subplot has recently come to my attention for it seems that Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) may have initially been lined up for the commission as a note in the inside cover of a sketchbook the artist employed on his northern tour in 1796 records ‘Mr Howlett Louth Church’ (Tate, Turner Bequest, XXXIV). Turner’s depictions of the church, one from the south east (XXXIV 80) and the other from the north west (XXXIV 81), are both dominated by views of the town and perhaps for this reason no finished watercolour was produced for Howlett. And as was the case with another subject listed by Turner, ‘Mr Howlett Boston Church’ (see TG1027), the commission passed to Girtin who was presumably content to work from the sketch of another artist more in tune with the needs of the publisher.

It may be that one is tempted to dwell on the work’s weaknesses, and therefore overstate the case for its reliance on another source, as a result of its poor condition: faded and discoloured after prolonged exposure to high light levels. But in one respect the drawing has fared well across the years, having been preserved in its original washline mount. We can be reasonably certain that this was the product of Girtin’s own efforts because a touch of blue has strayed from the sky onto the mount, and the fact that the work was finished by the artist after it had been mounted is confirmed by the presence of pin holes in the corners. A careful inspection of the work also reveals a fingerprint in the grass to the lower right, which must be Girtin’s own.


Lincoln Cathedral, from the West


1794 - 1795

Lincoln, from the Brayford Pool


1796 - 1797

The East Front of the Gatehouse of Thornton Abbey



The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral


1794 - 1795


1797 - 1798

Boston Church, from the South West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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