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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle

1793 - 1794

Primary Image: TG0161: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle, 1793–94, watercolour on paper, 17.8 × 25.7 cm, 7 × 10 ⅛ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762-99), The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle, 22 August 1791, graphite on laid paper, 16.7 × 21.1 cm, 6 5/18 × 8 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.669).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle
1793 - 1794
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
17.8 × 25.7 cm, 7 × 10 ⅛ in

‘Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; North Wales

The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle (TG0133)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
46ii as 'Denbigh Castle'; '1793'
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Margaret Ethel Pheysey (d.1957); her posthumous sale, Sotheby’s, 4 December 1957, lot 38; bought by 'Higgins', £140

About this Work

Girtin’s second and larger watercolour of the Great Gatehouse of Denbigh Castle, like TG0133, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see source image TG0133), and he did not visit the site himself until 1798. Girtin’s earliest patron toured North Wales in 1791 and he inscribed the sketches of the ruined castle with the date, 22 August. The smaller view of the gatehouse was made for Moore himself and is typical in terms of size and presentation of the seventy or so watercolours that Girtin produced from his patron’s amateurish sketches during the period October 1792 to February 1793, when he is documented as having worked for the antiquarian for a fee of six shillings a day (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 There is no evidence that this watercolour was ever in the Moore collection, however, and there are a number of differences between it and the smaller watercolour that suggest that the drawing was produced at a slightly later date for another patron. In particular, Girtin cut the composition to the left and top so that the gateway is brought closer to the viewer, with a consequent increase in its sense of monumentality. At the same time the artist employs a more painterly style of execution, and the role of the underdrawing in pencil in fixing the architectural details is much reduced. Both features suggest a later date, when the artist was not so fixed on the antiquarian market and was therefore free to break up the outlines of the masonry so that they look more picturesquely ragged without fear of censure from a patron who primarily required a record of their present state.

The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle is one of three Welsh scenes, each measuring about 18 × 25.7 cm (7 × 10 ⅛ in), that are all after Moore’s compositions but do not seem to have ever been in his possession. Conwy Castle (TG0171) and The East End of Valle Crucis Abbey Church (TG0159) were also the subject of watercolours by Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and it is possible that all three were made after Moore’s original drawing at one remove, with Dayes as the intermediary (see comparative image TG0133). A more likely scenario, however, is that Girtin made pencil copies of Moore’s sketches when they were in Dayes’ studio, and that would explain how he was able to continue to use Moore’s compositions after he completed his work for the antiquarian and after he ended his apprenticeship, probably sometime in 1792. In this way Girtin was able to fulfil a commission from an unknown later patron for picturesque views of Welsh sites that he had not yet visited.

1792 - 1793

The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle


1793 - 1794

Conwy Castle, Looking West


1793 - 1794

The East End of Valle Crucis Abbey Church


1792 - 1793

The Gatehouse, Denbigh Castle


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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