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Works Thomas Girtin

Powis Castle

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1351: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Powis Castle, 1798–99, watercolour on paper, 20.3 × 27.9 cm, 8 × 11 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Powis Castle
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
20.3 × 27.9 cm, 8 × 11 in
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; North Wales

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
289 as 'Powys Castle, Montgomeryshire'
Description Source(s)
Girtin Archive Photograph


Arthur Mason Worthington (1852–1916); then by descent to Dr Robert Albert Worthington (d.1945); Mrs Gilson (Girtin and Loshak, 1954)

About this Work

This watercolour, showing Powis Castle from the north east, has never been seen in public and is known only from a poor-quality black and white photograph (Girtin Archive, 12/6). The work was seen by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), however, and he included it in the catalogue of the artist’s watercolours that he created with David Loshak, dating it to 1798–99 and the aftermath of Girtin’s tour to North Wales in the summer of 1798 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.173). Working from such a poor image, it has not been possible to confirm the attribution to Girtin, though equally there is no reason to question the opinion of the artist’s descendant.

Powis Castle, from the North East

Castell Powys, as the building is known in Welsh, was rebuilt in the sixteenth century, incorporating parts of the medieval structure. During the latter part of the eighteenth century it was a popular stopping point in mid-Wales on the way to or from North Wales to London, and Girtin’s associates at the Sketching Society Thomas Richard Underwood (1772–1836) and Robert Ker Porter (1777–1842) visited on their trip in 1799 (Porter, 1799). We know very little about Girtin’s itinerary in 1798, with just the one stop fixed by a dated sketch of Corwen on 16 August, so all that can be said for certain is that a visit to Powis was feasible logistically, but whether this occurred on the outward or the return leg of his journey is impossible to establish. Tom Girtin (1913–94), who travelled the country searching for the locations from which Girtin made his sketches, was able to pinpoint Girtin’s unusual viewpoint (see figure 1). Unlike Turner, whose drawing from the same year typically depicts the castle from the south west, with the famous terrace gardens seen below, Girtin chose a view looking across the lake with the building all but lost amongst the trees (Tate Britain, Turner Bequest (XXXVIII 61)). The photograph also shows that the artist considerably exaggerated the height of the hill, and that the reflection of the castle depicted in the watercolour is a fallacy, albeit an attractive one.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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