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Works Thomas Girtin

The Gatehouse, Newark Castle

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0320: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Gatehouse, Newark Castle, 1794–95, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.8 × 20.3 cm, 9 ¾ × 8 in. Vancouver Art Gallery (VAG 31.40).

Photo courtesy of Vancouver Art Gallery, Founders' Fund, VAG 31.40. (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Gatehouse, Newark Castle
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.8 × 20.3 cm, 9 ¾ × 8 in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The Midlands

The Gatehouse, Newark Castle (TG0915)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
103i as 'Lympne Castle, Kent'; 'Probably an original Girtin design'; '1795'
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website as 'Lympne Castle' (the site no longer provides information on the collection (Accessed 06/09/2022))


Dr Crawford J. Pocock (1840–90); Cotswold Gallery, London; bought by the Museum, 1931, as 'The Grey Castle'

Exhibition History

Cotswold Gallery, 1927, no.3 as ’The Grey Castle’; Cotswold Gallery, 1928, no.5; Cotswold Gallery, 1929a, no.15 as ’Ruins of Lympne Castle, with Saltwood Castle in the Distance’; Cotswold Gallery, 1929b, no.29, £95

About this Work

This watercolour appeared on the art market in 1929 titled ‘Ruins of Lympne Castle, with Saltwood Castle in the Distance’, after having previously been known as ‘The Grey Castle’ (Exhibitions: Cotswold Gallery, 1929a, no.15; Cotswold Gallery, 1927, no.3). Lympne in Kent is depicted in a watercolour by Edward Dayes (1763–1804) now in the Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne (B7444), but, although the castle and its setting bear no resemblance to the ruins shown here, no satisfactory alternative immediately suggested itself and I initially catalogued Girtin’s work as An Unidentified Castle. However, the building can now be identified as the twelfth-century gatehouse of Newark Castle seen from the east, with the river Trent beyond. The same part of the ruins appears to the right of Girtin’s copy of a view of Newark Castle by Thomas Hearne (1744–1817) (TG0864), and initially I assumed that this work too was based on an image by another artist, with Girtin’s first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), as the obvious candidate. Another newly identified view of the gatehouse of Newark Castle (TG0102) has been discovered in an album of drawings by Moore, however, and, given that it conforms in size with the copies that Girtin made from his patron’s sketches, it is possible that it too replicates a lost sketch by the amateur. However, Newark is close to Southwell, which appears to have been one of the stops on the 1794 tour of the Midlands that Girtin undertook in the company of Moore, and it is therefore by no means inconceivable that the artist was able to study the castle at first hand. Moreover, even if the pencil drawing of Newark gatehouse was made after a lost sketch by Moore, it does not preclude the possibility that this watercolour was an outcome of the 1794 tour and that Girtin worked it up from his own on-the-spot study. Indeed, the plausibility of this scenario is strengthened by the idiosyncratic form of Girtin’s composition, which, in contrast to the well-known view of the river front chosen by Hearne, isolates the gatehouse from its setting. Viewed from an oblique angle, and from a low and close position, it is not surprising that the identity of what appears to be a border tower remained hidden for so long. The low viewpoint and the oblique angle are common characteristics of a number of subjects that Girtin sketched on the 1794 tour, such as The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon (TG1021), and stylistically too the work seems to fit much better with the products of the tour than with the earlier copies that Girtin made from Moore’s drawings.

The correct identification of the subject of this work has helped to elucidate the status of a second, larger version of the composition (TG0915). This is clearly later in date, bearing all of the hallmarks of a sketch made on the spot around 1797–98. However, given that the drawing replicates the composition of this earlier watercolour, it now looks very unlikely to have been made in the field, and surely it too is a studio work that has been made to share some of the spontaneous qualities of an on-the-spot sketch.

(?) 1795

Newark Castle, from the River Trent


(?) 1794

Newark Castle: The Gatehouse Seen from the North


1794 - 1795

The Ancient Charnel House, Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon


1797 - 1798

The Gatehouse, Newark Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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