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Works Thomas Girtin

The Gatehouse, Newark Castle

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG0915: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Gatehouse, Newark Castle, 1797–98, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 31.4 × 27 cm, 12 ⅜ × 10 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1878,1228.19).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Gatehouse, Newark Castle
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
31.4 × 27 cm, 12 ⅜ × 10 ⅝ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The Midlands

The Gatehouse, Newark Castle (TG0320)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
103ii as 'Lympne Castle, Kent'; 'Unfinished'; '1795–6'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Henderson (1764–1843); then by descent to John Henderson II (1797–1878) (lent to London, 1875); bequeathed to the Museum, 1878

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.65 as ’Knaresborough Castle’; London, 1936, no number


Binyon, 1898-1907, no.28 as 'Knaresborough Castle'; Davies, 1924, pl.19 as '(?) Knaresborough Castle'

About this Work

This is the later and larger version of a view of the twelfth-century gatehouse of Newark Castle, on the river Trent in Nottinghamshire (the other being TG0320). It does not show Lympne Castle in Kent, as Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak suggested (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.148). 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 worked up from Girtin’s own earlier on-the-spot study sometime around 1797–98. 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, gaining considerable dramatic impact as a result. 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 correct identification of the subject of this watercolour has also helped considerably to elucidate the status of a drawing that has hitherto been described as a sketch coloured on the spot. The drawing does indeed display many of the marks of an on-the-spot sketch of around 1797–98, with its rapidly applied washes of a limited range of tones and areas left unfinished, comparable to a drawing such as Denbigh Castle and the Vale of Clwyd (TG1337), made in Wales in 1798. 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. In the process, the architectural details and the building’s setting have become even more generalised and removed from the already abstracted form of the riverside gatehouse.

1794 - 1795

The Gatehouse, Newark Castle


(?) 1795

Newark Castle, from the River Trent


(?) 1794

Newark Castle: The Gatehouse Seen from the North


(?) 1798

Denbigh Castle and the Vale of Clwyd


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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