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Works Thomas Girtin

Spofforth, with the Tower of All Saints Church

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1586: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Spofforth, with the Tower of All Saints Church, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (possibly with a discoloured fixative), 11.4 × 17.3 cm, 4 ½ × 6 ¾ in. Private Collection, Hertfordshire.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hollow

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • Spofforth, with the Tower of All Saints Church
Date
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (possibly with a discoloured fixative)
Dimensions
11.4 × 17.3 cm, 4 ½ × 6 ¾ in
Inscription

'Spofforth' on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Part of
  • Yorkshire Sketchbook, 1799–1800
Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Yorkshire View; Gothic Architecture: Parish Church

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1586
Description Source(s)
Viewed in March 2022

Provenance

Possibly George Hibbert (1757–1837); then by descent

About this Work

This sketch showing a distant view of the village of Spofforth, between Harrogate and Wetherby, is one of a significant group of sketches that Girtin executed in the vicinity of Harewood House, probably on his visit to Yorkshire in the summer of 1799 or 1800. The subjects include seven views taken along the river Nidd at Knaresborough (TG1509, TG1510, TG1511, TG1512, TG1539, TG1542 and TG1589), three views made in or near Wetherby (TG1641, TG1645 and TG1646) and another view of Spofforth showing the fourteenth-century fortified manor house (TG1538). Each of the drawings was executed on a piece of wove paper of roughly the same vertical dimensions, and there is some evidence that they were removed from a sketchbook, though when, and by whom, is not clear. Two other drawings on the same paper have matching holes, which suggests that they had been bound into a book (TG1508a and TG1525). One of these sketches – Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea (TG1525) – is missing a small section, which, as a later copy indicates (TG1601), must have strayed onto the opposite page. It seems that on just this one occasion Girtin did execute his sketches in a book, though, as the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, it is unlikely that this was made commercially, and it may be that the artist himself assembled sheets of paper into a convenient gathering, which would account for slight variations in their size (Bower, 2002, p.141). Whatever the case, this sheet is likely to have featured amongst the ‘180 Sketches’ or ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’ that the artist’s brother, John Girtin (1773–1821), recorded taking possession of following the artist’s death in November 1802 and that he subsequently sold on (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1

This sketch does not seem to have been used as the basis for a finished watercolour, though others from the group were, including Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough (TG1589) and Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills (TG1536), and Girtin may have employed the book to show his compositions to potential clients. Prime amongst these was Edward Lascelles (1764–1814), who in all probability hosted Girtin during his stay in Yorkshire at nearby Harewood House and who is said to have had a room put aside for the artist to work in (Roget, 1891, vol.1, p.96). Spofforth is just a few kilometres away, and Girtin could easily have visited on a short excursion from Harewood, perhaps at the behest of Lascelles himself, since, apart from the ruined manor house seen in Girtin’s companion sketch (TG1538), the village was neither a popular tourist destination nor replete with any obvious pictorial interest for an artist. The tower of All Saints’ Church is viewed from the Harrogate road to the north and, as Professor David Hill has noted, the medieval causeway over Crimple Beck water meadows can be seen centre left (email dated 15 January 2022), much as it is today, when the fundamentally unchanged view makes for no more picturesque a composition.

1799 - 1800

Grimbald Bridge, near Knaresborough

TG1509

1799 - 1800

A Crag on the River Nidd

TG1510

1799 - 1800

Knaresborough Castle, from the High Bridge

TG1511

1799 - 1800

Bilton Banks, on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough

TG1512

1799 - 1800

Knaresborough, from the North West

TG1539

1799 - 1800

Knaresborough, Looking across Bilton Banks

TG1542

1799 - 1800

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough

TG1589

(?) 1800

Wetherby Bridge and Mills, Looking across the Weir

TG1641

(?) 1800

Wetherby Mills

TG1645

(?) 1800

Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby

TG1646

1799 - 1800

The Ruins of Spofforth Castle, near Harewood

TG1538

1799 - 1800

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck

TG1508a

1799 - 1800

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea

TG1525

1799 - 1800

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea

TG1525

(?) 1801

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea

TG1601

1799 - 1800

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough

TG1589

1799 - 1800

Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills

TG1536

1799 - 1800

The Ruins of Spofforth Castle, near Harewood

TG1538

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 Details are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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