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Works Thomas Girtin

The Refectory of Walsingham Priory

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0235: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Refectory of Walsingham Priory, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.6 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1938,1112.8).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Refectory of Walsingham Priory
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.6 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
East Anglia: Norfolk and Suffolk

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Edward J. Dean Paul; his untraced sale; Richard Johnson; his sale, Sotheby’s, 13 June 1934, lot 11 as 'A set of six small water-colour Drawings' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Finberg', £3 10s; Cotswold Gallery, London; bought from them by the Museum, 1938, as by Edward Dayes


Wilton, 1984a, p.23

About this Work

This informal sketch-like view of the refectory of Walsingham Priory in Norfolk is based on TG0328 and is one of twenty or so small-scale watercolours that Girtin made after outline drawings that he had copied 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 the young artist certainly did not visit the site himself. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were produced for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), at whose posthumous sale they were purchased by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), and they are therefore now part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. This example came to the British Museum by a different route, however, and it had variously been attributed to Turner himself and to Dayes before Girtin’s authorship was confirmed by Andrew Wilton (Wilton, 1984a, p.23).

Moore’s on-the-spot sketch of the thirteenth-century refectory at Walsingham was reproduced as an aquatint in 1793 in an unpublished second volume of Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (British Museum, Print Room), where it was described as being ‘singularly picturesque’ (Moore, 1792). It has been suggested that Monro may have had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce watercolours such as this (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). But, though its small scale certainly suits the watercolour to reproduction as a book illustration, its rapid execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate that it is a different kind of commodity. The subjects chosen for this informal sketch-like treatment certainly do not follow any obvious pattern other than being generally amongst the lesser known of the nation’s medieval monuments. Monro was unsystematic in his commissioning habits and it may be that there was nothing that united the group other than the fact that Girtin’s outlines provided a ready resource from which sketch-like watercolours might be rapidly produced.

1794 - 1795

The Refectory of Walsingham Priory


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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