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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

The Ruins of Newark Priory Church

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0216: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), The Ruins of Newark Priory Church, 1794–95, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 15.1 × 22.9 cm, 6 × 9 in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII 30 (D36601).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Ruins of Newark Priory Church
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
15.1 × 22.9 cm, 6 × 9 in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Surrey 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 'Ruins of abbey' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.69b; Tate Online as 'Ruined Abbey, Abbotsbury, Dorset' (Accessed 05/09/2022)

About this Work

This drawing has hitherto been catalogued as Ruined Abbey, Abbotsbury, Dorset, but in fact it shows the ruins of the priory church of Newark in Surrey, viewed from the north west. It is one of forty or so outlines by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and that are now part of the Turner Bequest, though uncharacteristically this example does contain a few touches of colour, possibly added by Girtin himself. None of the drawings were made on the spot and the majority were copied by Girtin from sketches by his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99). The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard size of paper, roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), 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 others 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 twenty 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 from this drawing, if it ever existed, has not been traced.

The Moore drawing that Girtin based his sketch on has not been found either, though a watercolour by Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804) (see figure 1), dated 1792, repeats the composition, and it was presumably based on the same lost prototype. Moore visited Newark on the way to South Wales in the summer of 1788, and he dated another view of the priory ruins ‘5 Augt’ (see figure 2). This was reproduced as an aquatint by George Isham Parkyns (1749–c.1820) in Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (Moore, 1792), as well as providing the basis for another watercolour by Dayes (Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, Williamstown (2007.20.17.14)). It is therefore possible that Girtin based his outline on a Dayes drawing, but, given that he must have had access to Moore’s sketches in order to produce so many of his copies, this was in all probability what happened here too.

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 (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.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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