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Works Thomas Girtin

The Red Castle, from Hawk Lake, with a Distant View of Shrewsbury

1798 - 1799

Primary Image: TG1352: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Red Castle, from Hawk Lake, with a Distant View of Shrewsbury, 1798–99, graphite and watercolour on paper, 18 × 26.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 10 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Red Castle, from Hawk Lake, with a Distant View of Shrewsbury
1798 - 1799
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
18 × 26.5 cm, 7 ⅛ × 10 ½ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; River Scenery; Shropshire View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2003


Sotheby’s, 12 June 2003, lot 128 as 'A Distant View of Shrewsbury', unsold

About this Work

This small watercolour showing a view of the Red Castle, taken from Hawk Lake in Hawkstone Park, with a distant view of Shrewsbury to the south, must be one of the most obscure topographical subjects undertaken by Girtin. The view does not even show the sandstone castle itself but an outlying tower, and the view of Shrewsbury is inconsequential compared to the tiny village of Weston-under-Redcastle at the edge of the lake. Hawkstone is near the Welsh border in Shropshire, and in theory it was accessible to Girtin either travelling to or from North Wales in the summer of 1798. However, it is difficult to believe that the artist would have taken a sketch of such a subject without prompting from a patron who had local knowledge and who alone might wish to commission a view that does not appear to have been depicted either before or since.

The watercolour only appeared in public for the first time in 2003, when it was sold without any evidence of who the first owner was – frustratingly, as an early provenance would surely help us to understand its status and function. There is a possibility, however, that the work is related in some way to another Shropshire view, Wroxeter: The Roman Wall (TG1353), which measures roughly the same and is comparable stylistically. A similar image of the Roman ruins at Wroxeter was etched by one of Girtin’s closest followers, the artist William Pearson (1772–1849), and it was included in his book Select Views of the Antiquities of Shropshire (see TG1353 figure 1). Such is the congruence between the two views, it is even possible that Girtin adapted his view of Wroxeter from a drawing by Pearson, rather than sketching it from life. If that was the case, then might it also be true for this depiction of Hawkstone? Pearson included a quite different view of the castle in his book, but he was clearly aware of the visual attractions of the subject, which he described as calculated to ‘amuse the antiquary, whilst the bold surrounding scenery will afford infinite gratification to the man of taste, and full scope to the pencil of the Artist’ (Pearson, 1807, pl.37). This is clearly not enough to establish a definite link between Girtin and Pearson, but it does strongly suggest that Girtin’s view was produced for, or in response to, an author or collector steeped in the study of the topography and history of the Welsh borders.

1798 - 1799

Wroxeter: The Roman Wall


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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