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Works Thomas Girtin after Thomas Hearne

Ripon Minster, from the River Skell

(?) 1795

Primary Image: TG0865: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), Ripon Minster, from the River Skell, (?) 1795, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 18.7 × 24 cm, 7 ⅜ × 10 in. British Museum, London (1878,1228.21).

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

Artist's source: William Byrne (1743–1805) and Samuel Middiman (1751–1831), after Thomas Hearne (1744–1817) and Francesco Bartolozzi (1728–1815), etching and engraving, 'Rippon Minster' for The Antiquities of Great-Britain, vol.1, pl.17, 15 September 1779, 19.8 × 25.4 cm, 7 ¾ × 10 in. British Museum, London (1873,0712.498).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Thomas Hearne (1744-1817)
  • Ripon Minster, from the River Skell
(?) 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
18.7 × 24 cm, 7 ⅜ × 10 in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture; River Scenery; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
15 as 'Ripon Minster, Yorkshire'; '1791–2'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Henderson (1764–1843); then by descent to John Henderson II (1797–1878); bequeathed to the Museum, 1878


Redgrave, 1892, p.35; Binyon, 1898–1907, no.89

About this Work

This view of Ripon Minster from the river Skell, looking north east, was copied from an engraving (see the source image above) that in turn was produced after a watercolour by Thomas Hearne (1744–1817), and it therefore predates by at least a year Girtin’s first visit to Yorkshire. The watercolour was commissioned by one of Girtin’s most important early patrons, the amateur artist and collector John Henderson (1764–1843), and the engraving on which the watercolour is based was presumably also in his collection. Henderson commissioned three other watercolour copies after engravings from Hearne’s outstanding collection of antiquarian subjects, Antiquities of Great-Britain (Hearne, 1786–1807), including the views Lanercost Priory Church (TG0867), Melrose Abbey: The View to the South Transept (TG0868) and The Gatehouse, Bury St Edmunds Abbey (TG0866). Together, the drawings form a distinctive and coherent group, with each copy measuring the same size as its model and the two horizontal compositions balancing the two in a vertical format. Henderson’s patronage of Girtin largely took the form of commissioning watercolours from works that he only owned as prints or outline drawings and sketches, and in this respect it resembled the labours that the young artist undertook with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of his other great patron of the mid-1790s, Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). The emphasis was placed squarely on the production in bulk of faithful, if unimaginative, versions of the original material, and this watercolour is typical in following its model very closely, with the exception of the exclusion of the rather mawkish family group seen in the foreground of the print (thus removing, in the process, the outdated fashions worn by the figures). The four watercolours produced after Hearne’s prints are all in the collection of the British Museum as a result of the bequest of Henderson’s son, and it is consequently possible to place the drawings together and thus appreciate the degree of unity across the group. Each employs the same simple palette of colours laid over a uniform tone of grey for the shadows, and it is easy to imagine Girtin working on all four simultaneously, adding the same tone to each of the drawings in turn.

None of the numerous copies produced by Girtin for Henderson are dated, but they generally seem to have been made around 1795–96. The small scale of the watercolours made after the Hearne prints, together with their limited palette and the retention of a number of stylistic features that originated in Girtin’s work as an apprentice to Edward Dayes (1763–1804), suggests that they were amongst the earliest works made for Henderson, and they noticeably lack the sophisticated use of line that marks many of the later commissions for the patron. Although the production of watercolour copies of engravings might be thought to have been little more than hack work for a talented young artist, the earlier date of their production suggests that Girtin still had something to learn from copying Hearne’s compositions. Hearne was after all the most adept of the older generation of topographical artists at producing images that balanced the needs of the antiquarian market with the desires of customers whose interest tended more towards landscape watercolours. It is not surprising to see, therefore, that when Girtin came to depict Ripon for the first time from life after his first northern tour in 1796, he chose viewpoints that owed something to Hearne’s example (TG1054).

(?) 1795

Lanercost Priory Church: An Interior View of the Ruins from the South Transept


(?) 1795

Melrose Abbey: The View to the South Transept


(?) 1795

The Gatehouse, Bury St Edmunds Abbey


1797 - 1798

A Distant View of Ripon Minster, from the River Skell


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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