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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

Portchester Castle, from the Outer Bailey

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0321: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Portchester Castle, from the Outer Bailey, 1794–95, graphite on paper, 15.4 × 22 cm, 6 ⅛ × 8 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 7 (D36577).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Portchester Castle, from the Outer Bailey
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
15.4 × 22 cm, 6 ⅛ × 8 ⅝ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Hampshire View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 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; Wilton, 1984a, p.10

About this Work

Portchester Castle

This is one of two views of the magnificent keep of Portchester Castle in Hampshire (the other being TG0272), which are amongst the 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 of either 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 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 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. No colour versions of either Portchester composition have been traced. However, a small watercolour by Alexander Monro (1802–44) survives, and this was presumably made from Girtin’s colour sketch when it was in the family collection (see figure 1).

Portchester Castle

Moore passed through Hampshire twice in the summer of 1791, and, although no views of the castle at Portchester by him are known to survive, he is still possibly the source for Girtin’s two outline drawings. However, Dayes also seems to have visited Portchester and he made at least two watercolours of it, including the view illustrated here (see figure 2). Therefore, in this case, although a lost sketch by Moore may have provided the basis for his composition, Dayes is the more likely source for Girtin’s drawing. It is not difficult to see the attraction of the subject for either Dayes or Moore. The keep at Portchester, dating mainly from the twelfth century, was built on the north-west angle of a Roman fort and the castle walls incorporate large parts of the ancient fortress. However, the primary focus here is the great medieval keep, and the view was selected to show it rising above the inner gatehouse leading into the inner bailey, with no sign of the Roman fort and its distinctive setting.

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.

1794 - 1795

The Keep, Portchester Castle, from the North East


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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