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Works Thomas Girtin

Richmond Castle and Bridge, from the River Swale

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG1064: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Richmond Castle and Bridge, from the River Swale, 1796–97, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 27.1 × 40.2 cm, 10 ⅝ × 15 ¾ in. Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool (FA.224).

Photo courtesy of Victoria Gallery and Museum, University of Liverpool (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), mezzotint, Richmond Castle and Bridge, 1822/23, published belatedly in Liber Naturae; or, A Collection of Prints from the Drawings of Thomas Girtin, pl.13, London, 1883, 16.2 × 22.5 cm, 6 ⅜ × 8 ⅞ in. British Museum, London (1893,0612.82.14).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Richmond Castle and Bridge, from the River Swale
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
27.1 × 40.2 cm, 10 ⅝ × 15 ¾ in

‘Girtin’ lower right, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery; Yorkshire View

Richmond Castle and Bridge, from the River Swale (TG1063)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
252ii as 'Richmond Castle'; '1798'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 18 April 1836, lot 179; bought by 'Monro', 17s; ... bought from the untraced sale of 'Mr Smart' by J. Palser & Sons, £15 (stock no.13743); bought by Robert Nesham (1846–1928), 4 February 1891, £40; his sale, Christie's, 30 July 1924, lot 50; bought by 'Agnew, 115 gns; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.554); Sir Charles Sydney Jones (1872–1947); bequeathed to Liverpool University, 1947

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1925, no.7; Agnew’s, 1931, no.127; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.81; Liverpool, 1977, no.34


Hardie, 1934, p.14

About this Work

This view of Richmond Castle in Yorkshire, seen from the south bank of the river Swale looking north east, is based on a partially coloured sketch that was almost certainly made in 1796 on Girtin’s first independent sketching tour (TG1063). Girtin’s viewpoint on the banks of the river Swale was calculated to display the dramatic location of Richmond Castle, with the great Norman keep to the left and the east curtain wall leading to the Great Hall to the right. In the foreground, crossing the river in three elegant arches, is the Green Bridge designed by John Carr (1723–1807) of York and only recently completed (1789) at the time of Girtin’s visit. Were it not known that the watercolour was based on a drawing from the 1796 tour, we may have been able to infer as much from its similarity to the view of Durham Cathedral and Castle (TG1075), which employs a similar composition with the same elements of river, bridge and castle on a hill arranged in much the same way. And again, as with the Durham view, Girtin’s contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) seems to have been inspired by the example of Girtin, his collaborator at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); thus, he adopted almost exactly the same viewpoint when sketching on his visit to Richmond in 1797 (see figure 1). As David Hill has noted, this is one of as many as ten examples of where Turner’s 1797 sketches seem to have stemmed from a knowledge of Girtin’s earlier on-the-spot studies (Hill, 1996, pp.4–5, 40 and 199).

Richmond from the River Swale

The watercolour has suffered a degree of fading, particularly in the middle ground, where areas of the washes of colour and the pencil work appear quite ponderous and earth tones have become too dominant. There is no doubt about the attribution to Girtin, though, not least because of the prominent and clearly genuine signature on the rock in the river. As for the date of the work, we are helped here by the relatively good condition of the sky, which, in contrast to many later works, such as Morpeth Bridge (TG1708), has not faded to a brick-red colour as a consequence of the use of the fugitive pigment indigo. There is no reason, therefore, not to think that this work was produced soon after the artist’s return from the north in 1796, and it may have been produced on commission, one of the works that helped to cover the costs of Girtin’s trip. Certainly, the fact that the work was reproduced as a mezzotint by Samuel William Reynolds (1773–1835) (see the print after, above, Neill & Son, 1883) does not mean that it was produced specifically for engraving, though its smaller size might initially suggest that. Incidentally, this may well be one of those occasions where the print, with its dramatic contrasts of light and shade, gives a good impression of the work’s original, pre-faded condition.

(?) 1796

Richmond Castle and Bridge, from the River Swale


1796 - 1797

Durham Cathedral and Castle, from the River Wear


1800 - 1801

Morpeth Bridge


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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