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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

The Gatehouse and Barbican, Warwick Castle

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0168: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), The Gatehouse and Barbican, Warwick Castle, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 35.1 × 47 cm, 13 ⅞ × 18 ½ in. Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Georges de Batz Collection, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund (1967.17.79).

Photo courtesy of Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco, Georges de Batz Collection, Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts Endowment Fund (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • The Gatehouse and Barbican, Warwick Castle
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
35.1 × 47 cm, 13 ⅞ × 18 ½ in

'Warwick Castle / T Girtin' on the back, not in the artist's hand

Object Type
Exhibition Watercolour; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The Midlands

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
54 as 'Warwick Castle'; '1793'
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue; Gallery Website


Walker’s Galleries, London, 1921, £130; Sidney Lovell Phipson (1851–1929); his sale, Anderson Galleries, New York, 15 November 1923, lot 74; George de Batz; bought from him by the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, 1967 (then a department of the De Young Museum, San Francisco)

Exhibition History

Walker’s Galleries, 1921, no.58; Berkeley, 1974

About this Work

This view of the Gatehouse and Barbican of Warwick Castle, with Guy’s Tower beyond, is one of eight watercolours sold at Walker’s Galleries in London in 1921 that were said to have been commissioned from the young Girtin and remained in the same family collection for generations (Exhibitions: Walker’s Galleries, 1921). The group included views of Chepstow Castle (TG0170), Hereford Cathedral (TG0070), Lindisfarne Priory (TG0210), Warkworth Castle (TG0177) and Vale Crucis Abbey (TG0208), none of which the young Girtin could have visited, and most, if not all, seem to have been made after compositions by his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), around 1792–93. The evidence that this work was copied after another artist is particularly compelling and it centres on the problems Girtin had with the depiction of a building he had not seen. For instance, the slightly projecting towers flanking the Barbican should be hexagonal and not square, and Guy’s Tower, to the right, is far too far forward; it is part of the castle’s outer walls and is actually about thirty metres away from the gatehouse. Such inaccuracies are not without their benefits, however, as a comparison with Giovanni Antonio Canale’s (Canaletto) (1697–1768) famous but more literal view of the east front of the castle illustrates. The close and oblique viewpoint adopted by Girtin for his composition creates a more dramatic effect where the trees and bushes that dominate the foreground appear ready to take over the structure. The encroaching vegetation actually obscures the bridge over the dry moat surrounding the castle, enhancing the impression that the building is cut off from the outside world, something that the shadowy figures in the foreground do nothing to undermine.

Paul Sandby (c.1730–1809), etching and aquatint, 'The Entrance of Warwick Castle from the Lower Court', June 1776, 32.8 × 45.1 cm, 12 ⅞ × 17 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1872,0713.488)

Dayes certainly visited Warwick and one of his views of the castle was engraved for The Copper-Plate Magazine in 1797 (Walker, 1792–1802), but a prototype of this composition has not been traced amongst his works. This is not unusual in that it was often his lost on-the-spot sketches that provided Girtin with his models; however, uniquely amongst the group of watercolours sold in 1921, there is a possibility that this work was made after another artist. An aquatint titled The Entrance of Warwick Castle from the Lower Court (see figure 1), published by Paul Sandby (c.1730–1809) in 1776, shows the same view, albeit with much less vegetation, and it is possible that Girtin adopted this composition. It is more likely, however, that the print influenced an amateur artist such as James Moore (1762–99) to take up the same viewpoint and that Girtin worked from one of the sketches made by his early patron that has not been traced. Certainly, Girtin’s composition lacks the clear lucidity of parts that characterises Dayes’ compositions, with their generally unerring perspective, and the fact that Moore provided the model for Girtin’s first exhibit at the Royal Academy, Ely Cathedral, from the South East (TG0202), supports the possibility that Girtin worked from his sketch in this case as well. Girtin actually showed a view of Warwick Castle at the Academy exhibition in 1795, but this work, together with the rest of the Walker’s Galleries group, dates stylistically from around 1792–93 and it cannot therefore have been an outcome of the tour of the Midlands that he undertook with Moore in the summer of 1794.

1792 - 1793

Chepstow Castle, from the River Wye


1792 - 1793

Hereford Cathedral


1792 - 1793

Lindisfarne Priory Church, Looking West from the Choir


1792 - 1793

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet


1792 - 1793

The East End of Valle Crucis Abbey Church


(?) 1794

Ely Cathedral, from the South East


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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