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Works Thomas Girtin

Southwell Minster, from the North West

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG1025: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Southwell Minster, from the North West, 1794–95, watercolour on paper, 29.9 × 38.7 cm, 11 ¾ × 15 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • Southwell Minster, from the North West
Date
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
29.9 × 38.7 cm, 11 ¾ × 15 ¼ in
Object Type
Commissioned from Thomas Girtin; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View; The Midlands

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0996
Girtin & Loshak Number
87ii as 'Southwell Minster ... 1794'
Description Source(s)
Girtin Archive Photograph

Provenance

James Moore (1762–99); his widow, Mary Moore (née Howett) (d.1835); bequeathed to Anne Miller (1802–90); bequeathed to Edward Mansel Miller (1829–1912); bequeathed to Helen Louisa Miller (1842–1915); bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960); bought by Leggatt Brothers, London, 1915, £25; presented by them to the Red Cross Sale, Christie's, 31 March 1917, lot 1268; ... Christie's, 26 June 1931, lot 99; bought by 'Thomson', £33 12s, for the Palser Gallery, London

Exhibition History

Palser Gallery, 1932b, no.83; Palser Gallery, 1933, no.16; Palser Gallery, 1934a, no.32, 120 gns; Palser Gallery, 1936, no.34, £120; Palser Gallery, 1937, no.36; Palser Gallery, 1938, no.53

About this Work

This view of Southwell Minster from the north west was made after a detailed pencil sketch (TG1024) that Girtin executed on his first significant trip outside London, undertaken in the summer of 1794. The tour through the Midland counties was organised by the artist’s earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), who accompanied Girtin to Lichfield, Lincoln and Peterborough, as well as Southwell, so that his young protégé might sketch at first hand a group of the nation’s finest Gothic buildings. This watercolour is one of four cathedral views all measuring roughly the same that were subsequently commissioned by Moore and that Girtin seems to have painted immediately after his return from the journey, as they are dated 1794 (the others being TG1002, TG1008 and TG1017). A year earlier, Girtin had exhibited for the first time at the Royal Academy, showing the watercolour Ely Cathedral, from the South East (TG0202), which had been based on a drawing by his patron, but now, working from his own on-the-spot sketches, he was able to render the complex architectural details of the cathedrals with greater fidelity and in compositions that, in contrast to the earlier Ely view, display a secure grasp of perspective.

Girtin may no longer have had to rely on his patron’s barely competent drawings, but his independence was still circumscribed, since it was Moore who presumably chose the itinerary and selected the subjects and the viewpoints from which the young artist made his sketches. In this case, the view from the north west happily combines Southwell’s distinctive western towers with the monumental crossing, and it also features the famous Chapter House to the left. The 1794 trip to the Midlands may have been Girtin’s first significant trip outside London, but the patron was still very much in charge, and the results of the artist’s efforts reflected, first and foremost, Moore’s priorities as an antiquarian. Moore’s commissions from Girtin had hitherto concentrated on recording the nation’s ruined abbeys and castles, which the antiquarian feared were destined to disappear through neglect (Moore, 1792, p.58). But the 1794 tour, with its concentration on the great cathedral buildings of the Midland counties, was at least partly motivated by his perception of a different threat to the nation’s architectural heritage, one that came from modern ‘improvers’, whose restorations at Durham and other cathedrals were deemed by antiquarians to be ill-informed at best, and often downright destructive. Southwell was largely spared the fate of many of the nation’s great sacred buildings, however, and it may be that the commission was motivated more by a desire to celebrate the building’s status as a particularly fine example of the decorative qualities of the Early English style of Gothic architecture.

The work is known only from an old black and white photograph in the Girtin Archive and when the catalogue first went online the image of TG0996 was mistakenly used to illustrate TG1025, a contemporary copy of the composition now in the Deanery at Southall Minster by an unknown artist.  The text used for that entry has been moved here as it appears to fit the image, but it will be amended with an image when the site is updated in April. The texts for the other versions of the composition (TG1024, TG1026) will also be amended and a full text and image for the newly discovered watercolour (TG0995) will be added to the skeleton form of the entry.

(?) 1794

Southwell Minster, from the North West

TG1024

1794

The West Front of Lichfield Cathedral

TG1002

1794

Lincoln Cathedral, from the West

TG1008

1794

The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral

TG1017

(?) 1794

Ely Cathedral, from the South East

TG0202

1794 - 1800

Southwell Minster, from the North West

TG1025

(?) 1794

Southwell Minster, from the North West

TG1024

(?) 1795

Southwell Minster, from the North West

TG1026

1794 - 1795

TG0995

Place depicted

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