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Works Thomas Girtin

Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0279: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle, 1795–96, watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.7 × 12.1 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX, 8 (D36635).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.7 × 12.1 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as 'Netley Abbey' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.69b as 'Netley Abbey'; Bryant, 2005, p.86

About this Work

This informal sketch-like view of part of the ruins of Middleham Castle in Yorkshire is based on TG0260 and is one of twenty or so small-scale watercolours that Girtin made after outline drawings that he had copied from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and Girtin certainly did not visit the site himself. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were produced for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), at whose posthumous sale they were purchased by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851).

Moore’s on-the-spot sketch is untraced, but it was reproduced as an aquatint (see TG0260 figure 1), and there is no question that it was the source for Girtin’s image, though it was produced with a very different function in mind. Unlike the aquatint, Girtin’s watercolour does not include any prominent figures or staffage. Its rapid execution and small scale hint that it was made on the spot, though this is impossible, and this effect is certainly enhanced by the way that the artist’s fingerprint has encroached onto the surface to the left. It has been suggested that Monro may have had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce watercolours such as this (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). But, though their small scale certainly suited them to reproduction as book illustrations, the subjects chosen seem to follow no obvious pattern other than being generally amongst the lesser known of the nation’s medieval monuments. Monro was unsystematic in his commissioning habits and it may be that there was nothing that united the group other than the fact that Girtin’s outlines provided a ready resource from which sketch-like watercolours might be rapidly produced.

The paper is discoloured as a result of excessive exposure to light whilst on long-term exhibition. The differently toned areas (top, left and right) were protected by an earlier mount.

1794 - 1795

Part of the Ruins of Middleham Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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