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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0260: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle, 1794–95, graphite on laid paper, 15.5 × 22.5 cm, 6 ⅛ × 8 ⅞ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 16 (D36586).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper
15.5 × 22.5 cm, 6 ⅛ × 8 ⅞ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Yorkshire View

Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle (TG0279)
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.1239 as 'Ruins' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of Middleham Castle in Yorkshire is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), many of which were bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) and are now therefore to be found in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The majority were copied by Girtin from the sketches either of his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and none of the drawings were made on the spot. The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard paper size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with Turner, 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, including Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle (TG0279), 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.

George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824), after James Moore (1762–99), aquatint, 'Middleham Castle' for <i>Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales</i>, p.19, 1 July 1791, 7.4 × 10 cm, 2 ⅞ × 3 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

The source for Girtin’s outline appears to be an untraced drawing made by Moore on a trip to Yorkshire in the autumn of 1789. Moore’s drawing was reproduced as an aquatint to illustrate his publication Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales, where it is stated that the author made his sketch on 28 September (see figure 1) (Moore, 1792, p.20). Moore’s text, which is very dry and frequently tedious, notes that the view is from the south east, showing the ‘singular appearance’ of the ruined keep, and that from this angle the chapel contrasts favourably with the unpicturesque way the ruins generally compose themselves. Studies of cypress trees on the back of the drawing are very poor in quality and they are not by Girtin.

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 (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.

1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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