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Works Thomas Girtin

The Ruined Gatehouse, Pevensey Castle, from the East

1793 - 1794

Primary Image: TG0266: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Ruined Gatehouse, Pevensey Castle, from the East, 1793–94, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 22.2 × 16.6 cm, 8 ¾ × 7 ½ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1916.37).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Ruined Gatehouse, Pevensey Castle, from the East
1793 - 1794
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
22.2 × 16.6 cm, 8 ¾ × 7 ½ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
96 as 'Pevensey Castle'; '1795'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2016


James Moore (1762–99); his widow, Mary Moore (née Howett) (d.1835); bequeathed to Anne Miller (1802–90); bequeathed to Edward Mansel Miller (1829–1912); bequeathed to Helen Louisa Miller (1842–1915); bought by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 1912, £5; presented to the Museum, 1916


Mayne, 1949, p.99; Brown, 1982, p.331, no.721; Wilton, 1984a, p.19

About this Work

The Gatehouse, Pevensey Castle

This view by Girtin of the ruined gatehouse of Pevensey Castle in Sussex was made after a sketch by his first significant patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99) (TG0266a), and Girtin himself almost certainly did not visit the site. Moore’s drawing is one of twenty or so examples of where Girtin elaborated and corrected his patron’s tentative and often inept sketches. However, in this case, having not visited Pevensey, Girtin was unable to interpret Moore’s sketch and thus correct the perspective of the broad entranceway to the castle, which, as can be seen from a contemporary photograph, was particularly problematic (see figure 1). This was partly blocked up at the time, but Moore’s characteristically poor sketch has represented the confused mass of stones in a convex form, and the entrance bears no credible relationship with the round tower to the left. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, as well as David Brown, believed that Girtin accompanied Moore on his trip to Sussex (Brown, 1982, p.331; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.28), but such cognitive errors offer compelling evidence that the professional artist was working, once again, from a poor-quality sketch by his patron.

There is some confusion about the status of this view of the gatehouse at Pevensey Castle, which, in truth, is little more than a pencil copy of Moore’s drawing, with limited areas of grey and blue wash applied rapidly on top. Indeed, given the identical dimensions of the two drawings (TG0266 and TG0266a), there is a suspicion that Girtin’s drawing was simply traced from his patron’s sketch, and this might indeed explain why the artist enhanced the outlines of his source. Brown has suggested that Girtin left off work on the watercolour at an early stage and that the artist might have gone on to add washes to what he interprets as the monochrome underdrawing for a finished work (Brown, 1982, p.331). In many ways this is an attractive idea, especially as it leaves open the possibility that Girtin abandoned the drawing because he realised that his source material was deficient. On balance, though, there are enough examples of Girtin using simple monochrome washes over prominent pencil work in the subjects he executed for Moore, as in the case of The Landgate, Rye (TG0223) and Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace (TG0226), to suggest that rather than being unfinished, the drawing is a simple reworking of his patron’s sketch. Thus, it arguably shows what Girtin might have produced himself had he visited Pevensey Castle and been able to work on the spot.

(?) 1793

The Ruined Gatehouse, Pevensey Castle


1793 - 1794

The Ruined Gatehouse, Pevensey Castle, from the East


(?) 1793

The Ruined Gatehouse, Pevensey Castle


(?) 1795

The Landgate, Rye


1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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