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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey

(?) 1795

Primary Image: TG0277: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey, (?) 1795, graphite on paper, 27.9 × 22.9 cm, 11 × 9 in. Tate, Turner Bequest XXIII J (D00384).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey
(?) 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
27.9 × 22.9 cm, 11 × 9 in
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Town and Domestic Fortifications; Sussex View

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey (TG0268)
The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey (TG0277a)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.1, p.38 as 'Entrance Battle Abbey, Sussex' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Gardiner, 2013, pp.71–75

About this Work

The Gatehouse of Battle Abbey, Sussex

This pencil view of the southern front of the fourteenth-century gatehouse of Battle Abbey in Sussex appears to have formed the basis of both a watercolour made for Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (TG0268), and a collaboration with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (TG0277a). The drawing was in all probability made after a sketch by Moore, and it is highly unlikely that Girtin himself visited the site. One of Moore’s views of the gateway, published in his Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (Moore, 1792), was made on 10 July 1790, whilst another appears to date from a trip taken in the summer of 1795 (TG0318). It was presumably on this latter visit that Moore made the untraced sketch from which Girtin made this copy. We can be reasonably sure that Girtin worked at second hand because of the way in which both the drawing and the subsequent watercolour misinterpret the structure of the right-hand turret. Working from a slightly different angle, Michael Rooker (1746–1801) shows how the right doorway is built out from the octagonal turret and forms a square shape (see figure 1), whilst Girtin is thoroughly confused by the more oblique angle chosen by Moore and shows part of it flush with the turret. Additionally, to the right, what should be a simple right-angle wall is fudged so that it is impossible to read the building here as a coherent structure. The confusion of forms is such that a darker area that appears to be a shadow could equally be interpreted as a buttress. Basic cognitive errors such as these are a good sign that a work has been copied from the sketch of an amateur artist with limited skill in the art of perspective, and it is inconceivable that Girtin would have made mistakes if he had studied the subject at first hand.

Moore’s choice of a more oblique viewpoint than Rooker’s is particularly idiosyncratic because it means that the large archway designed for coach traffic, with its fine internal vaulting, is quite obscured by the formless doorway. Rooker’s watercolour was shown in 1792 at the Royal Academy, where Turner made two small copies of parts of the work, and so it may have been with the intention of showing a different aspect that Moore departed from the more obviously picturesque image. Aside from its historical association with the Battle of Hastings, the gatehouse has real architectural merit and it was the subject of numerous views at this date in addition to Rooker’s.

(?) 1795

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey


1795 - 1796

The Gatehouse, Battle Abbey


(?) 1795

Battle Abbey Gatehouse, from the South West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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