For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin after Unknown Artist

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

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0172: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after an Unknown Artist, The Interior of Tintern Abbey, Showing the Choir and North Transept, 1792–93, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, 37.8 × 26.6 cm, 14 ⅞ × 10 ½ in. Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery (FAW 155).

Photo courtesy of Blackburn Museum and Art Gallery (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Unknown Artist
  • The Interior of Tintern Abbey, Showing the Choir and North Transept
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper
37.8 × 26.6 cm, 14 ⅞ × 10 ½ in

‘T. Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; South Wales; The Wye Valley

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
49 as 'Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire'; '1793'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2002


Richard Haworth (1820–83); Reginald Coddington; Mrs Cayley; presented to the Gallery, 1918

Exhibition History

New York, 1987, no.177; Grasmere, 1998, no.73; London, 2002, no.32

About this Work

Transept of Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire

This interior 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 (TG0213). 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. However, unlike its pair, where there is firm evidence that Girtin adapted a sketch by Dayes, the source here has not been traced. Girtin’s earliest patron, the amateur artist and keen antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), also sketched the ruins of Tintern (see TG0213 figure 2), but his views lack the spatial complexity shown here, and the ambitious nature of Girtin’s composition strongly suggests that an untraced sketch by Dayes again provided the young artist with his model. This is in striking contrast with Girtin’s almost exact contemporary, Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who visited and sketched Tintern in the summer of 1792 and soon thereafter began producing studio watercolours for various patrons. Although not without some evident difficulties, Turner was more successful than Girtin in creating coherent and convincing spaces from outline drawings of Tintern (see figure 1), though his greater mastery of perspective was no doubt aided by the fact that he did not have to rely on the sketches of others.

Tintern Abbey: View of the Crossing

Turner’s watercolour of the interior of Tintern Abbey dates from slightly later than Girtin’s, but it displays many of the same stylistic influences from Dayes. Features such as the predominant palette of blues and greens, the conventional forms of the foliage, and the darkened foreground (an aspect found in the work of both artists at this time) owe their origins to Dayes, though another trait, the strong penned outline employed here by Girtin, was not adopted by Turner. Intriguingly, Turner’s watercolour was commissioned by Moore in the same year (1794) that Girtin’s first significant patron took him on a tour of the Midlands in order to sketch some of the Gothic monuments that he had hitherto had to realise from the work of other artists. Moore presumably recognised that whilst an artist might capture many of the picturesque aspects of a scene from a secondary view of the scenery, the other qualities that attracted visitors to Tintern required more. Sir Richard Colt Hoare (1758–1838), for instance, thought that the ‘beautiful Gothic aisle, overhung with ivy in the most picturesque manner’ produced a ‘striking effect on the mind and senses’ (Thompson, 1983, p.101). The ‘striking effect’ produced in the minds of visitors also included a ‘reverential and religious awe’, and, as Samuel Ireland (1744–1800) specified, the ‘pointed arches above … magically suspended … raise an idea of grandeur’ and ‘suggest ideas … of a melancholy tinge’ (Ireland, 1797, pp.135–36). The low viewpoint employed in both of Girtin’s watercolours of Tintern, the emphasis on the vertical and the enclosing force of the luxuriant foliage all help to produce a ‘striking effect’, but they are not enough to efface the sense that this is a secondhand experience of a space that has not been fully comprehended and that, consequently, not all of its potential as a subject was realised.

A watercolour sketch of the crossing of Tintern Abbey that has been exhibited as the work of Girtin (Exhibitions: London, 1954, no.111) is no longer considered to be by the artist. It is catalogued by The Whitworth, Manchester, as ‘British, unattributed’ (see figure 2).

1792 - 1793

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


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.