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Works Thomas Girtin

Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd



Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
27.9 × 38.1 cm, 11 × 15 in

‘Girtin 1799’

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; North Wales; River Scenery

Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd (TG1301)
Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd (TG1304)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
319i as 'Rhuddlan Castle, Flintshire'
Description Source(s)
Girtin and Loshak, 1954


Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815); then by descent


Deuchar, 1984, p.79

About this Work

This view of the thirteenth-century castle built for Edward I (1239–1307) at Rhuddlan, seen from the river Clwyd, is one of three versions of a composition that resulted from Girtin’s tour of North Wales in 1798. The watercolour, which is dated 1799, may be based on another version of the composition that was possibly coloured on the spot (TG1301), though its poor, faded condition makes this difficult to substantiate. This work too is badly faded so that the dramatic broken sky, which lights up the castle in a characteristic fashion, has all but been lost, whilst the reflections in the water in the foreground lack the subtle patterns that typically anchor Girtin’s compositions. This is a great pity because the artist’s adopted position downriver produced a powerful symmetrical composition of stark simplicity, with the double tower of the castle’s eastern gatehouse aligning vertically with the two arches of the bridge. However, what one modern writer has termed the ‘nakedness of the terrain and the wide sweep of its vacant space’, reminiscent of the ‘sense of romantic solitude’ found in the landscapes of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), may actually have been enhanced by the way the work has effectively been reduced to broad areas of monochrome (Eitner and others, 1993, p.108).

Girtin’s view of Rhuddlan Castle comes from the collection of Samuel Whitbread (1764–1815) and has remained at the family home of Southill Park since. The watercolour was first recorded in an inventory made in 1816, after Whitbread’s death, as one of two ‘Landscapes … in gilt frames Glazed’, though it is unlikely that it, and another watercolour of the same dimensions, An Unidentified Valley, Probably in North Wales (TG1441), was commissioned from Girtin (Bedfordshire Archives (130 Southill)). Instead, it seems that both of the Welsh views owned by Whitbread came via Girtin’s representative, the artist and engraver Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), who worked for Whitbread and was the recipient of his support when he was suffering from financial problems. Indeed it was to Whitbread, through an intermediary, that Reynolds outlined in October 1801 the extent of the stock of works by Girtin that he owned, and that he hoped to sell to pay his debts (Reynolds, Letter, 1801).1 The Welsh views owned by Whitbread, at around 28 × 38 cm (11 × 15 in), conform to the ‘smaller size’ that Reynolds valued at ‘£4. 4. each’, and, though not documented, it is likely that they were acquired by the patron in return for underwriting Reynolds’ debts.

(?) 1798

Rhuddlan Castle, from the River Clwyd


1798 - 1799

An Unidentified Valley, Probably in North Wales


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The details are contained in a letter to Sawrey Gilpin (1733–1807). The letter is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1801 – Item 4).

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