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Works Thomas Girtin after Thomas Hearne

Newark Castle, from the River Trent

(?) 1795

Artist's source: Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), Newark Castle, from the River Trent, 1777, graphite and watercolour on paper, 20.3 × 25.3 cm, 8 × 10 in. British Museum, London (1859,0528.201).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Thomas Hearne (1744-1817)
  • Newark Castle, from the River Trent
(?) 1795
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
20.3 × 25.4 cm, 8 × 10 in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery; The Midlands

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
Description Source(s)
Girtin and Loshak, p.149


Walker’s Galleries, London, 1936; Guy Daniel Harvey-Samuel (1887–1960) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954)

Exhibition History

Walker’s Galleries, 1936, no.105, 65 gns


Morris, 1989, p.119

About this Work

William Byrne (1743–1805) and James Sparrow (active 1795–1807), after Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), etching and engraving, 'Newark Castle' for <i>The Antiquities of Great-Britain</i>, vol.2, pl.3, 14 May 1796, 18.7 × 24.9 cm, 7 ⅜ × 9 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

This watercolour, showing the ruins of Newark Castle on the river Trent (no available image) was copied by Girtin from a composition by Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), either the engraving published as part of The Antiquities of Great-Britain (see figure 1) (Hearne, 1786–1807) or the watercolour in the collection of the British Museum on which the print was based (see the source image above). At first sight, the engraving would seem to be the more likely candidate as the source for Girtin’s copy, as prints from Hearne’s Antiquities of Great-Britain provided the artist with the basis for a significant group of watercolours at this date, including Ripon Minster, from the River Skell (TG0865) and Lanercost Priory Church (TG0867). However, those works came from the collection of John Henderson (1764–1843), the amateur artist who commissioned a large number of copies from Girtin after sketches by himself, as well as the prints of contemporary British topographers and an older generation of Continental artists. Henderson’s patronage of Girtin largely took the form of commissioning watercolours from works that he only owned as prints or outline drawings and sketches, and in this case we seem to be dealing with something slightly different. For, not only is there no evidence that Henderson ever owned this watercolour by Girtin but there would also not have been any reason for the patron to have commissioned a copy since the 1777 watercolour used as the basis for the engraving was almost certainly in Henderson’s collection by the mid-1790s, before finally arriving in the British Museum in 1859 as the gift of his son. What seems to have happened, therefore, is that whilst Girtin was working for Henderson, copying prints after Hearne’s compositions, he took the opportunity to produce a close copy of the watercolour, presumably for another patron or perhaps for sale on the open market.

Because the engraving matches Hearne’s watercolour so closely, down to the smallest details (such as the sailing barges on the river and the distinctive patterns made by the clouds), my conclusion is difficult to finally substantiate. However, the fact that the engraving was not published until 1796 may help to clinch the argument that, in this case alone, it was Hearne’s watercolour that Girtin copied rather than the print. Thus, although Girtin’s watercolour has not been seen in public for almost a century, there was enough evidence in terms of the manner in which the watercolour medium was handled to persuade Girtin and Loshak that it predated the print (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.149). In this respect, therefore, the work is consistent with the other copies after Hearne’s works produced for Henderson, such as an interior view of Melrose Abbey (TG0868), and they too therefore probably date from early on in the relationship between artist and patron.

Landscape with Cottage

A word of caution needs to be interjected here, however, since Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak erroneously included a Hearne watercolour in their catalogue of Girtin’s works (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, no.91, p.146). They argued that Landscape with Cottage, which is in the collection of the Williamson Art Gallery and Museum, Birkenhead (see figure 2), is a copy by Girtin of a Hearne watercolour and they dated it to 1794–95. The watercolour is clearly a fine work by Hearne and has been accepted as such in the recent literature, and, given our failure to locate even a black and white photograph of Newark Castle, from the River Trent, one cannot help but wonder whether it too might turn out to be by Hearne himself, rather than being a copy by Girtin as Girtin and Loshak suggest (Belsey and Spadoni, 2004, p.174). Another, larger view of Newark, supposedly measuring 8 ¾ × 13 ¼ in (22.2 × 33.7 cm), formerly in the collections of Thomas Woolner (1825–92), John Heugh (c.1813–78) and Sir Joseph Heron (1809–89), has not been traced.

(?) 1795

Ripon Minster, from the River Skell


(?) 1795

Lanercost Priory Church: An Interior View of the Ruins from the South Transept


(?) 1795

Melrose Abbey: The View to the South Transept


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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