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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

Raby Castle

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0362: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Raby Castle, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.7 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 17 (D36644).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Raby Castle
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.7 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Durham and Northumberland

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, no.818d


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as 'Raby Castle, Durham' by Thomas Girtin; Wilton, 1984a, p.12

About this Work

William Angus (1752–1821), after Edward Dayes (1763-1804), engraving, 'Raby Castle in the County of Durham, the Seat of Lord Darlington' for <i>The Seats of the Nobility and Gentry</i>, vol.1, pl.25, 1 August 1791, 16 × 20 cm, 6 ¼ × 7 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection.

This view of Raby Castle in County Durham, shown from the south west, is one of twenty or so small-scale watercolours that Girtin made for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and that are now in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were painted around 1795–96 after a set of outline drawings that are also now in the Turner Bequest, though the sketch for this view of Raby is not amongst them and has not been traced. Most of Girtin’s outlines were copied from the sketches of his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99). However, in this instance, since Moore does not seem to have visited Raby, the ultimate source for the watercolour is to be found in a composition by Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804) (see figure 1), and the young artist certainly did not visit the site himself. Dayes made a watercolour of exactly the same view of Raby, which, since it is signed and dated 1790, was produced during the period of Girtin’s apprenticeship. However, Girtin produced the pencil drawings used as the basis for the coloured cards around 1794–95, a few years after leaving Dayes’ studio, and the ultimate source for his composition is more likely to have been the engraving of Raby that was published in The Seats of the Nobility and Gentry (Angus, 1787–97), which Monro would almost certainly have had a copy of in his library.

In comparison to Dayes’ view of the ‘Seat of Lord Darlington’, Girtin’s image of Raby stresses the antiquity of ‘this venerable Structure’, removing a framing tree to the right as well as excluding the two genteel figure groups in the foreground (Angus, 1787–97, vol.1, pl.25). Ironically, as a result, Girtin’s drawing better illustrates the text that accompanies the engraving than Dayes’ view. It ‘is a most noble massy Building … uninjured by any modern Improvements’, the text notes; it ‘is simply magnificent, and strikes by its Magnitude’. It is possible that Monro had such a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce small-scale watercolours such as this, but their rapid, even careless execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate a different kind of commodity. The subjects chosen for this informal sketch-like treatment also do not follow any obvious pattern, and Monro probably had no specific overarching theme in mind. This is the only country seat depicted, for instance, and it may be that nothing unites 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 and right) were protected by an earlier mount.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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