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Works Thomas Girtin

The East End of Bolton Priory Church (pages 38–39 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)

(?) 1800

Primary Image: TG1618: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The East End of Bolton Priory Church, (?) 1800, graphite on wove paper, 14.6 × 43.4 cm, 5 ¾ × 17 ⅛ in. The Whitworth, The University of Manchester (D.1977.15.38).

Photo courtesy of The Whitworth, The University of Manchester, Photo by Michael Pollard (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • The East End of Bolton Priory Church (pages 38–39 of the Whitworth Book of Drawings)
Date
(?) 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
Dimensions
14.6 × 43.4 cm, 5 ¾ × 17 ⅛ in
Inscription

‘Bolton’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; 'Sketch / Rippon Minster Cold. on the Spot / Sold to [blank] 8. 8 0' on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Part of
  • Whitworth Book of Drawings
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Yorkshire View

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1618
Girtin & Loshak Number
375 as 'Bolton Abbey'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2002 and 2022

Provenance

Sale at Platt Vicarage, Rusholme, Manchester, 1898; sketchbook bought by 'Shepherd'; then by descent to F. W. Shepherd; his sale, Sotheby’s, 7 July 1977, lot 46; bought by Baskett and Day; bought by the Gallery, 1977

Bibliography

Hardie, 1938–39, no.16, p.94 as 'Bolton'

About this Work

This pencil sketch of the ruins of the east end of the priory church at Bolton in Yorkshire, seen from across the river Wharfe, begins on page thirty-nine of the Whitworth Book of Drawings (TG1323, TG1324 and TG1600TG1625) and continues onto the previous sheet. It is one of three pencil drawings of the celebrated picturesque site that remain in the book (the others being TG1616 and TG1617), whilst at least two other outlines and two on-the-spot colour sketches of Bolton have been detached (including TG1614 and TG1615). This was presumably by Girtin himself, who sold views such as this to sympathetic patrons for a guinea (£1 1s) for a pencil sketch and up to eight guineas (£8 8s) for a coloured drawing. The history of the Book of Drawings is complicated and confused, but, as the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, it initially took the form of a number of gatherings of different papers by Girtin, rather than being bought as a ready-made commodity, and it would have looked very different when used for sketching views such as this (Bower, 2002, p.141). Girtin’s collections of sketches, which I have carefully not described as a sketchbook, appears to have been rearranged when it was bound into book form after his death – the end papers have an '1803' watermark. This, I suspect, was done at the behest of the artist’s brother John Girtin (1773–1821) who appropriated material from the studio after his death, including ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’, a combination that accords with the unusual makeup of the book (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1 Despite this, at least some of the drawings of Bolton have retained their original positions, and a run of four similar subjects, including this extended view which spreads across two sheets of paper, indicates that they, at least, were executed together and in the artist's original arrangement; Girtin, it is clear, was intent upon surveying the site from every angle, familiar and not. This is likely to have been during the summer of 1800, when Girtin is documented as having stayed at Harewood House with his patron Edward Lascelles (1764–1814), and the artist appears to have made his excursion to Bolton at Lascelles’ behest to gather material for commissions, including On the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey (TG1554).2 It is perhaps telling that that unconventional image, which literally saw the artist turning his back on the famously picturesque ruins, attracted just the one commission, whilst views such as this and a similar composition taken from a few metres away (TG1617) proved to be one of the artist’s most popular subjects; embowering the riverside ruins in verdant foliage produced the perfect image of the sequestered monastic site. This was something of an illusion, however, as a reference to another view of the village confirms (TG1616). The trees shown here are thus used to hide more modern buildings, whilst the west end of the ruins, kept out of sight in this watercolour, was actually fitted up for use as the parish church.

The drawing is inscribed on the back, presumably by Girtin himself, ‘sketch / Rippon Minster cold on the Spot / Sold to …. 8. 8. 0.’ This refers to the image on the next page, which has been cut out of the book and removed for sale. Eight guineas seems a large sum for a small sketch, but it conforms with the price paid for A Distant View of Bolton Abbey (TG1614), which also appears to have been extracted from the Book of Drawings. The view of Ripon is one of as many as ten drawings removed from the book that have not yet been traced.

1800 - 1801

Mountain Scenery, Said to Be near Beddgelert

TG1323

1800 - 1801

The Valley of the Glaslyn, near Beddgelert

TG1324

1798 - 1799

John Raphael Smith: ‘Waiting for the Mail Coach’

TG1600

(?) 1800

The Ruins of Old Mulgrave Castle

TG1625

(?) 1800

Bolton Abbey, from the River Wharfe

TG1616

(?) 1800

Bolton Abbey: The East End of the Priory Church, from across the River Wharfe

TG1617

(?) 1800

A Distant View of Bolton Abbey

TG1614

(?) 1800

An Interior View of the Choir of Bolton Priory

TG1615

1800 - 1801

On the River Wharfe at Bolton Abbey

TG1554

(?) 1800

Bolton Abbey: The East End of the Priory Church, from across the River Wharfe

TG1617

(?) 1800

Bolton Abbey, from the River Wharfe

TG1616

(?) 1800

A Distant View of Bolton Abbey

TG1614

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 John Girtin lists this amongst the contents of his brother's studio. Details are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).
  2. 2 YRK York Papers, Borthwick Institute, University of York

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