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Works Thomas Girtin

The Ruins of Spofforth Castle, near Harewood

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1538: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Ruins of Spofforth Castle, near Harewood, 1799–1800, graphite on wove paper, 11.4 × 17.5 cm, 4 ½ × 6 ⅞ in. Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum / The Wilson.

Photo courtesy of Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum / The Wilson (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • The Ruins of Spofforth Castle, near Harewood
Date
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
Dimensions
11.4 × 17.5 cm, 4 ½ × 6 ⅞ in
Part of
Object Type
Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Yorkshire View

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1538
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2008

Provenance

Arthur Henry Holland-Hibbert, 3rd Viscount Knutsford (1855–1935); his sale, Sotheby's, 11 April 1935, lot 66, one of three; bought by Tancred Borenius for Henry Lascelles, 6th Earl of Harewood (1882–1947), £7; then by descent to George Lascelles, 7th Earl of Harewood (1923–2011); his sale, Christie’s, 13 July 1965, lot 165 as 'The Ruins of Spofforth Abbey, near Knaresborough'; bought by 'Agnew', 75 gns; Thos. Agnew & Sons; Stephen Pyke; bequeathed to the Gallery, 2003

Bibliography

Hill, 1999, p.44

About this Work

This view of the fourteenth-century fortified manor house at Spofforth, between Harrogate and Wetherby, is one of a significant group of sketches that Girtin executed in the vicinity of Harewood House, probably on his visit to Yorkshire in the summer of 1799 or 1800. The subjects include seven views taken along the river Nidd at Knaresborough (TG1509TG1510TG1511, TG1512, TG1539, TG1542 and TG1589), three views made in or near Wetherby (TG1641, TG1645 and TG1646) and another view of Spofforth itself (TG1586). Each of the drawings was executed on a piece of wove paper of roughly the same vertical dimensions, and there is some evidence that they were all removed from a sketchbook. Two other drawings on the same paper have matching holes, which suggests that they had been bound into a book (TG1508a and TG1525). The latter sketch (Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea) is missing a small section, which, as a later copy indicates (TG1601), must have strayed onto the opposite page. It seems that on just this one occasion Girtin did execute his sketches in a book, though, as the paper historian Peter Bower has argued, it is unlikely that this was made commercially, and it may be that the artist himself assembled sheets of paper into a convenient gathering which would account for slight variations in their size (Bower, 2002, p.141). Whatever the case, this sheet is likely to have featured amongst the ‘180 Sketches’ or ‘4 little Books partly of sketches and partly blank paper’ that John Girtin (1773–1821) records taking possession of following the artist’s death in November 1802 and which he subsequently sold on the art market (Chancery, Income and Expenses, 1804).1

Part of the Ruins of Spofforth Castle

This sketch does not seem to have been used as the basis for a finished watercolour, though others from the group were, including Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresbourough (TG1589) and Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills (TG1536), and Girtin may have employed the book to show his compositions to potential clients. Prime amongst these was no doubt Edward Lascelles (1764–1814), who in all probability hosted Girtin during his stay in Yorkshire at nearby Harewood House and who is said to have had a room put aside for the artist to work in (Roget, 1891, vol.1, p.96). Spofforth is just a few kilometres away, and Girtin could have easily visited on a short excursion from Harewood, perhaps at the behest of Lascelles himself as the subject was not well known. Indeed, this may explain why, unusually for Girtin, the artist appears to have been following in the footsteps of his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who sketched Spofforth on his visit to Harewood in 1797 (see figure 1). As many as a dozen of the sketches executed by Turner on that tour demonstrate his knowledge of the drawings made by Girtin on his trip to the north east in 1796 (see TG1073 and comparative image TG1073). However, Harewood was not on Girtin's earlier itinerary and, as with Plumpton Rocks (TG1552), this view sees Girtin catching up with his contemporar’s work for Lascelles

1799 - 1800

Grimbald Bridge, near Knaresborough

TG1509

1799 - 1800

A Crag on the River Nidd

TG1510

1799 - 1800

Knaresborough Castle, from the High Bridge

TG1511

1799 - 1800

Bilton Banks, on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough

TG1512

1799 - 1800

Knaresborough, from the North West

TG1539

1799 - 1800

Knaresborough, Looking across Bilton Banks

TG1542

1799 - 1800

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough

TG1589

(?) 1800

Wetherby Bridge and Mills, Looking across the Weir

TG1641

(?) 1800

Wetherby Mills

TG1645

(?) 1800

Kirk Deighton, near Wetherby

TG1646

1799 - 1800

Spofforth, with the Tower of All Saints Church

TG1586

1799 - 1800

Cottages at Hawes, from Gayle Beck

TG1508a

1799 - 1800

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea

TG1525

(?) 1801

Chelsea Reach, Looking towards Battersea

TG1601

1799 - 1800

Buildings on the River Nidd, near Knaresborough

TG1589

1799 - 1800

Wetherby: Looking through the Bridge to the Mills

TG1536

(?) 1796

Durham Cathedral and Castle, from the River Wear

TG1073

(?) 1796

Durham Cathedral and Castle, from the River Wear

TG1073

(?) 1800

Plumpton Rocks, near Knaresborough

TG1552

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  1. 1 Details are transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1804 – Item 1).

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