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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Thomas Hearne

Part of the Ruins of Lewes Castle, from the West

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0295: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), Part of the Ruins of Lewes Castle, from the West, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper, 21.5 × 13.8 cm, 8 ½ × 5 ⅜ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII 9 (D36579).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Thomas Hearne (1744-1817)
  • Part of the Ruins of Lewes Castle, from the West
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
21.5 × 13.8 cm, 8 ½ × 5 ⅜ in
Object Type
Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1238 as 'Part of ruined castle' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of Lewes Castle in Sussex is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and that are now part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. None of the drawings were made on the spot. Instead, the majority were copied from the sketches of Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or from professional artists, particularly Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). The outlines, generally conforming to Moore’s standard paper size of paper roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), was employed at Monro’s home at the Adelphi to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card, measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), including fifteen or so that found a home in the Turner Bequest, and these may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron. The watercolour from this outline, if it existed, has not been traced, however.

Lewes Castle

Because Girtin based a similar view of Lewes Castle from the west (TG0162) on a sketch by Moore made in 1793 (see source image TG0162), it was initially assumed that this composition too was worked up from an original by the amateur. However, the appearance at auction in 2011 of a watercolour of Lewes Castle by Thomas Hearne (1744–1817) (see figure 1), similarly showing the fortress from further away framed by a humble domestic building in the foreground and a tree to the left, suggests that he was the source for Girtin’s pencil drawing. The posthumous sale of Monro’s collection included countless unspecified sketches of ‘buildings’ and ‘Antiquarian sketches’ by Hearne (Christie’s, 27 June 1833, lots 40–75), and it was presumably from amongst these that Girtin found a second Lewes subject, rather than from a finished watercolour. In contrast to the earlier view of the castle that Girtin produced for Moore, the result is a more obviously picturesque composition. This no doubt reflected Monro’s broader interests, which were not confined solely to antiquarian subjects.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (1792) (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

(?) 1793

The Ruins of Lewes Castle, from the West


(?) 1793

The Ruins of Lewes Castle, from the West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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