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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The Refectory of Walsingham Priory

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0328: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), The Refectory of Walsingham Priory, 1794–95, graphite on laid paper, 15.2 × 22.7 cm, 6 × 8 ⅞ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 26 (D36597).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), The Refectory of Walsingham Priory, 2 September 1790, graphite on laid paper, 15.9 × 20.2 cm, 6 ¼ × 8 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.611).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Refectory of Walsingham Priory
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on laid paper
15.2 × 22.7 cm, 6 × 8 ⅞ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
East Anglia: Norfolk and Suffolk; Monastic Ruins

The Refectory of Walsingham Priory (TG0235)
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.1239 as 'Ruined abbey' by Thomas Girtin; Wilton, 1984a, p.23

About this Work

This view of the thirteenth-century refectory of Walsingham Priory in Norfolk is one of 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. The watercolour that Girtin made from this drawing (TG0235) was separated from the rest of the group that found a home in the Turner Bequest after being bought by Turner from Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833.

The Refectory of Walsingham Abbey, Norfolk

Girtin’s outline was copied from a drawing dated 2 September and made by Moore on his tour of East Anglia in 1790 (see the source image above), the same day that he sketched the view of the east end of the church (see TG0283 figure 1). As with the view of the priory church, Moore’s drawing had already been copied twice before Girtin made his pencil drawing. An aquatint by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) is included in an unpublished second volume of Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (Moore, 1792) held in the British Museum’s Print Room, and Dayes produced a larger version of Moore’s composition in watercolours (see figure 1). It is signed and dated 1792 and it may therefore have been produced during Girtin’s period as his apprentice.

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 Parkyns) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles (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.

1795 - 1796

The Refectory of Walsingham Priory


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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