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Works (?) Thomas Girtin and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0277a: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 28.3 × 22.5 cm, 11 ⅛ × 8 ⅞ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
  • The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
28.3 × 22.5 cm, 11 ⅛ × 8 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Town and Domestic Fortifications; Monastic Ruins; Sussex View

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey (TG0268)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2006


Henry Bannerman Burney (1819–90); then by descent to Blanche Susan Fanny Burney (1858–1944); bequeathed to Stella Alleyne; then by descent; Christie's, 5 June 2006, lot 47, £12,000, as by Joseph Mallord WilliamTurner


Gardiner, 2013, pp.71–75

About this Work

This monochrome watercolour showing the gatehouse of Battle Abbey in Sussex has hitherto been attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), and it has not been directly connected with either Girtin or the works that the two artists collaborated on at the house of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). However, there is good evidence to suggest that Girtin was deeply involved in its production and that it was made for their mutual patron around 1795–96. It is my contention that the monochrome drawing was executed from a pencil outline that Girtin made (TG0277) – probably after a sketch by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) – and that, in turn, was used as the basis for a watercolour for his patron (TG0268). The connection between the pencil drawing and the two watercolours, one in full colour and the other monochrome, can be illustrated by overlaying images of the three works and varying their opacity. The result is that details of each drawing can be shown to align so closely, even down to the uncertain perspective to the right of the building, that there can be no question that the Girtin pencil drawing was the common source for both watercolours, and it is quite likely that both were traced from that template. It is of course possible that Turner did this himself whilst working at Monro’s house, and that would certainly explain why the pencil drawing came from the patron’s collection even though it copies a drawing by Moore. However, the common division of labour between the two artists was for Girtin to produce the outlines and Turner to colour them, and this is what I suspect happened here. Monro was interested in getting finished watercolours from the pencil outlines in his possession, and in this case it seems that the outline was supplied by Girtin himself. Moreover, even though Turner’s washes are more carefully worked up than many of the collaborative works the artists produced, some of the underdrawing remains evident and the lines are certainly not incompatible with Girtin’s style. As with so many cases, this is far from a definitive judgement, but a joint production is the likeliest explanation for why this monochrome replicates Girtin’s composition.

(?) 1795

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey


(?) 1795

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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