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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

The Interior of Tintern Abbey, Looking towards the West Window from the Choir

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0213: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), The Interior of Tintern Abbey, Looking towards the West Window from the Choir, 1792–93, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, 38.2 × 27.1 cm, 15 × 10 ⅝ in. Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery (1972.386).

Photo courtesy of Norfolk Museums Service, Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • The Interior of Tintern Abbey, Looking towards the West Window from the Choir
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper
38.2 × 27.1 cm, 15 × 10 ⅝ in

‘T. Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘View of Tintern Abbey in Monmouthshire / Drawn by Mr / Thos / Girtin / Looking from the choir, down the Nave, showing the / West Window’ on the back in another hand

Object Type
Copy from an Unknown Source
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; South Wales; The Wye Valley

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2002


Major K. K. Walmsley; his sale, Sotheby's, 24 June 1971, no.71; bought by P & D Colnaghi & Co Ltd, £1,850; bought and presented by the Friends of Norwich Museums, 1972

Exhibition History

Colnaghi’s, 1972, no.24; Louisville, 1977, no.40; Norwich, 1993, no.14; London, 2002, no.31

About this Work

The Beauties of England and Wales

This internal view of Tintern Abbey on the river Wye forms a pair with another vertical composition of the picturesque ruins that is the same size and is also signed (TG0172). Stylistically, the works both date from the period of Girtin’s apprenticeship to Edward Dayes (1763–1804) or soon after its termination, and therefore to a time before the young artist had gained the chance to travel and sketch the scenery of the Wye for himself. The watercolour, like all of his early views of scenery a distance away from London, was therefore produced after the work of another artist, and in this case there is evidence that Girtin adapted a sketch by Dayes, as he had already done with another view of Tintern, seen from across the river (TG0058). An engraving showing the same view looking towards the great west window from a position in the choir of the ruined church is inscribed ‘after a Sketch by E. Dayes’ (see figure 1), and it was presumably from a lost drawing of this view that the young artist worked his composition.

Dayes’ influence extends beyond the shared composition, however. The simple palette of greens and blues set against a warmer tone for the stonework, the shadowy foreground, and the distinctive treatment of the foliage all display a close adherence to his master’s style, as does the use of a strong bounding line in pen and ink to detail the architectural forms. The artist’s immaturity is also evident in the insecure perspective, which means that the two arches of the central crossing appear to fall away so that the square form of the base of the tower is compromised. It is unlikely that Girtin would have allowed such a spatial anomaly had he visited the site for himself and subsequently worked from his own drawing made on the spot, but he was at least able to partly conceal the problem under a luxuriant display of the foliage that was such a picturesque feature of the ruins in their semi-preserved state. Although a low viewpoint up against the piers of the northern arcade may have provided a challenge Girtin could not yet fully master, it did at least provide the young artist with an opportunity to evoke something of the sense of sublime drama that so attracted visitors to the ivy-clad ruins, with their masonry looming overhead to create a suitably immersive experience.

Interior of Tintern Abbey

Dayes’ original sketch has not survived, but there is evidence that it was coloured on the spot, rather than being in the form of a simple outline like the similar sketch of the view west produced by Girtin’s important earliest patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99) (see figure 2). Girtin thus employed a warm tone to depict the stonework accurately, reflecting the use of a reddish sandstone in its construction. Moore’s drawing of essentially the same view depicted by Girtin is also a timely reminder that it is possible that a sketch by an amateur artist was Girtin’s original model, rather than Dayes, who himself copied many of Moore’s sketches. Indeed, that might help to explain the perspectival shortcomings found in this view of Tintern.

1792 - 1793

The Interior of Tintern Abbey, Showing the Choir and North Transept


1791 - 1792

Tintern Abbey, from the River Wye


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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