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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

The Keep of Hedingham Castle, from the East

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0303: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), The Keep of Hedingham Castle, from the East, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper, 16.5 × 21 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 37 (D36608).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • The Keep of Hedingham Castle, from the East
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
16.5 × 21 cm, 6 ½ × 8 ¼ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Essex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1240 as 'Another view of Hedingham Castle' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This is one of two views of the magnificent keep of Hedingham Castle in Essex (the other being TG0333), which are amongst forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), many of which were bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) and are now therefore to be found in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The majority were copied by Girtin from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and none of the drawings were made on the spot. The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with Turner, was employed at Monro’s home at the Adelphi to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card, measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), including fifteen or so that found a home in the Turner Bequest, and these may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron.

Hedingham Castle, Essex

The small watercolour in this case, if it ever existed, has not been traced, and the source for the pencil outline is also missing. Moore toured East Anglia in 1790 and Girtin copied at least eight of his sketches to use as models for watercolours owned by Monro, but little evidence has been found to link the Hedingham subjects to the patron. Instead, the view of the keep from the east follows the same composition as a watercolour dated 1791 that was painted by Dayes (see figure 1). This was produced at a time when Girtin was Dayes’ apprentice, and one might logically conclude that he took the opportunity to copy his master’s work then. However, this does not preclude the possibility that Dayes himself based his compositions on a common source in a drawing by Moore that has not survived. Dayes was employed on numerous occasions to carry out the same task in which Girtin was engaged – that is, to make watercolours from their patron’s often feeble sketches – and there are many instances of where both artists made versions of the same composition (such as TG0283 figure 1 and TG0347 figure 1). It is possible that Girtin took a copy of a Dayes composition when he left his studio, probably sometime in 1792, but the likeliest scenario, given that we know he had access to Moore’s sketches in 1795, is that the watercolour and pencil drawing share a common but untraced source.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (1792) (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

1794 - 1795

The Keep of Hedingham Castle, from the South West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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