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Works Thomas Girtin after Edward Dayes

Rochester Cathedral, from the North East, with the Castle Beyond

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0363: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Rochester Cathedral, from the North East, with the Castle Beyond, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.7 × 12.2 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 10 (D36637).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Rochester Cathedral, from the North East, with the Castle Beyond
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.7 × 12.2 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Dover and Kent; Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View

Rochester Cathedral and Castle, from the North East (TG0076)
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.817c


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as '"Rochester"' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

1791, graphite and watercolour on wove paper on an original washline mount, 14.2 × 21.7 cm, 5 ⅝ × 8 ½ in, mount 21.7 × 29 cm, 8 ½ × 11 ⅜ in. British Library, London (Add Ms 34115 f.7).

This informal sketch-like view of Rochester Cathedral with the castle beyond is one of twenty or so small watercolours bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of his and Girtin’s patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 81 and 82). They now form part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain, where the majority of them are attributed to Girtin. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were executed around 1795–96 after a set of outline drawings of antiquarian subjects that Girtin mainly copied from the sketches of his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99). However, although Moore made a number of sketches of Rochester Castle (see TG0231), the source for this watercolour was actually a composition by Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804) known from what appears to be an on-the-spot colour sketch that has recently been catalogued in the collection of the British Library (Add Ms 34,115 f.7). It is, therefore, a repetition of a view that the young artist made as an apprentice in his master's studio (TG0076), albeit cutting the scene to make a more compact version. Girtin produced three other Rochester views from Dayes’ compositions in the period of his apprenticeship (TG0015, TG0057 and TG0071), but it is highly unlikely that this work was copied at this stage. Certainly, Girtin did not travel to Rochester himself, and the likeliest scenario is that he reacquainted himself with this composition in the collection of Monro and that he made his copy at the patron’s house at the Adelphi in London a couple of years after terminating his apprenticeship. Monro is known to have owned a view of Rochester by Dayes, and there may have been more amongst the hundred or so ‘Coloured sketches of antiquities and buildings’ by Dayes that were sold posthumously from his collection in 1833 (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lots 36–40 and 44).

It is possible that Monro may have had 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 very different kind of commodity. Indeed, the subjects that were chosen for this informal sketch-like treatment do not follow any obvious pattern, either by geography or building type, that might have made for a thematically unified publication. It may be that there is nothing that unites the group other than that Girtin’s outlines after the sketches of Moore and Dayes 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, left and right) were protected by an earlier mount.

(?) 1795

Rochester Castle, from the South


1792 - 1793

Rochester Cathedral and Castle, from the North East



Rochester, from the River Medway


(?) 1791

Rochester Castle, from the River Medway


1791 - 1792

Rochester, from the North


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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