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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

Southwell Minster, from the North West

(?) 1795

Primary Image: TG1026: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Southwell Minster, from the North West, (?) 1795, watercolour on paper, 38.1 × 47 cm, 15 × 18 ½ in. Harris Museum and Art Gallery, Preston.

Photo courtesy of Harris Museum, Art Gallery & Library, Preston

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Southwell Minster, from the North West
(?) 1795
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
38.1 × 47 cm, 15 × 18 ½ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View; The Midlands

Southwell Minster, from the North West (TG1024)
Southwell Minster, from the North West (TG1025)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Colour Photograph


'Duncan' (unidentified dealer); Christie’s, 19 March 1887, lot 35 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Agnew'; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.8348); bought by Sir John Pender (1815–96), 29 February 1888 (lent to London, 1894); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 31 May 1897, lot 243 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Agnew', £42; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.2062); bought by John Fletcher Haworth (c.1851–1922), 2 December 1897; Gooden & Fox Ltd.; bought from them by Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.6596), 12 May 1908; bought by Revd John Haslam, 28 February 1912; bequeathed to the Gallery, 1949

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1888, no.277 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Agnew’s, 1909, no.23; London, 1984d, no.528, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Nottingham Castle Museum, 2007, no catalogue


Armstrong, 1902, p.278 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of Southwell Minster from the north west, in the collection of the Harris Museum in Preston, has always been attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who visited the city in the same year as Girtin, 1794. The work was not included in Andrew Wilton’s catalogue of Turner’s watercolours, however, and, given that the view is taken from exactly the same spot as Girtin’s detailed pencil drawing (TG1024), the case for attributing it to him is certainly worth considering (Wilton, 1979). Indeed, such is the apparent congruence between the pencil drawing, this watercolour and the view of Southwell Minster that Girtin produced for James Moore (1762–99) (TG0996) that it is not unreasonable to assume that both versions of the composition were executed from Girtin’s sketch, much in the same way as the comparable views of the interior of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace (TG1383 and TG1384). Details such as the precise alignment of the crossing and the western towers, the repetition of the exact position of the Chapter House in relation to the north transept, and the inclusion in both drawings of the same double gravestone in the foreground to the left all suggest that Girtin’s on-the-spot sketch was the source for both Southwell watercolours. The fact that the watercolour from Preston is larger and has an evening effect, in contrast to the morning view with the light shining on the western towers seen in the work commissioned by Moore may be accounted for by the fact that the artist was working for a different patron and at a slightly later date.

Moreover, there is no record of Turner ever having made an on-the-spot pencil drawing showing this view of Southwell, and the suggestion that both watercolours were therefore executed by Girtin after his own drawing is borne out by overlaying images of all three, a procedure that shows that the watercolour currently attributed to Turner is actually closer to the pencil drawing than Girtin’s commission from Moore. The latter, though it follows the details of the drawing precisely in most respects, varies the angle of the facade and slightly increases the lateral extent of the cathedral. These are minor changes, and not enough to suggest that Girtin’s commission for Moore was worked from another, untraced drawing, but they are more marked than the differences between the sketch and the larger watercolour currently given to Turner. As the example of the interior view of the hall at Eltham Palace again demonstrates, Girtin and Turner’s watercolours from around 1794–95 can be very difficult to tell apart, but their pencil drawings tend to provide fewer problems, and I have no doubt about the attribution of the pencil sketch to Girtin, not least because it is signed. Of course, it is not inconceivable that Turner used Girtin’s drawing to produce a watercolour of Southwell, especially as the two artists were working together at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) at this date. However, on balance, the most plausible explanation for the similarities between all three views is that Girtin was responsible for both finished studio works and that this larger version dates from slightly later.

(?) 1794

Southwell Minster, from the North West


1794 - 1795


1796 - 1797

The Interior of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace


1794 - 1795

The Interior of the Great Hall of Eltham Palace


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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