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Works Thomas Girtin

The East End of the Church of St Thomas, Winchelsea

1793 - 1794

Primary Image: TG0305: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), The East End of the Church of St Thomas, Winchelsea, 1793–94, graphite and watercolour on paper, 23 × 16.5 cm, 9 × 6 ½ in. Private Collection.

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The East End of the Church of St Thomas, Winchelsea
1793 - 1794
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
23 × 16.5 cm, 9 × 6 ½ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
100 as 'Winchelsea Church'; '1795'
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


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), 1912, £6; bought from him by Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.7984), 10 April 1913; bought by F. Holbrooke, 21 May 1919, £16 16s; Mrs Holbrooke; her posthumous sale, Christie's, 17 February 1939, lot 15; bought by O. 'Hughes-Jones', £14 14s; Sotheby’s, 7 July 1983, lot 134, £770

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1914, no.116; Agnew’s, 1919, no.140

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin of the east end of Winchelsea Church was made after a sketch by his first significant patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99) (TG0305a), and Girtin almost certainly did not visit the site. Moore’s drawing is one of a dozen or so examples of where Girtin elaborated and corrected his patron’s tentative and often inept sketches before going on to produce a finished watercolour of the subject himself. The watercolours are the same size as the sketches and it may be that the process of reinforcing the lines of the latter helped to make it easier to trace the composition onto another piece of paper prior to the addition of watercolour. Girtin is first documented as having worked for Moore in the winter of 1792–93, producing the first of seventy or so small watercolour versions of his patron’s compositions, and this may be the date of this work, which, as far as one can tell from poor black and white photograph, seems stylistically conservative like other Sussex views, such as Pevensey Castle: View of the North and East Towers (TG0287) (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1  Perhaps the point here is that we expect too much from the artist. The nature of his employment with Moore meant that Girtin had little time to perfect his work and we should not expect a linear development and improvement, the surprise being that more often than not he introduced just enough to distinguish each view.

The biggest surprise here is that the obscure, if not eccentric, composition was by Moore rather than Girtin, an artist who, at least later in his career, tirelessly sought out obscure and wilfully different views of well-known sites. In this case, Moore sketched the east end of the building from a close and oblique angle, with the result that the magnificent tracery of the east windows is obscured by an unsightly buttress, a mass of ivy overwhelms the structure of the chancel and the facade to the right is cut in an arbitrary way that leaves the composition as a whole unbalanced.

1790 - 1795

The East End of the Church of St Thomas, Winchelsea


1792 - 1793

Pevensey Castle: View of the North and East Towers


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).

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