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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The Ruins of the East End of St Andrews Cathedral

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0120: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), The Ruins of the East End of St Andrews Cathedral, 1792–93, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 21.9 × 16.8 cm, 8 ⅝ × 6 ½ in. Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery (1953P231).

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), St Andrews Cathedral, 30 August 1792, graphite on wove paper, 22.9 × 17.9 cm, 9 × 7 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.721).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Ruins of the East End of St Andrews Cathedral
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
21.9 × 16.8 cm, 8 ⅝ × 6 ½ in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Scottish View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
40 as 'St. Andrews Cathedral, Fife'; '1793'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


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) as Kinross; bought by Leggatt Brothers, London, 1915, £15 15s; Ronald Nall-Cain, 2nd Baron Brocket (1904–67); his sale, Christie's, 8 February 1946, lot 49; bought by P & D Colnaghi & Co., £86 2s; James Leslie Wright (1862–1954); presented to the Museum, 1953

Exhibition History

Spink’s, London, 1949, no.213; Worthing, 1963, no.43; Agnew’s, 1984, no.28


Rose, 1980, p.57

About this Work

This watercolour by Girtin showing part of the ruins of St Andrews Cathedral on the Scottish coast, north of Edinburgh, was made after a drawing by the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (see the source image above), and he never visited the site himself. Girtin’s earliest patron made an extensive tour of the country in the late summer of 1792 and his sketch of the east end of the ruined building is dated 30 August. Girtin is documented as having worked for Moore between October 1792 and February 1793 for a fee of six shillings a day, producing watercolours on paper generally measuring roughly 6 ½ × 8 ½ in (16.5 × 21.5 cm), as here (Moore, Payments, 1792–93).1 The distinctive washline mount Girtin produced for the drawings has not survived in this case and the work has suffered some fading as well. In all Girtin painted seventy or so small watercolours after Moore’s sketches, including about thirty compositions derived from drawings made on the trip to Scotland. Moore employed other artists to work up his sketches for reproduction, including Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), but it seems that the seventeen-year-old artist, who may still have been an apprentice at this date, was tasked with simply producing the best watercolours he could from the little more than functional records produced by the antiquarian. Moore’s collection of watercolours by Girtin, which eventually numbered over a hundred, remained in the ownership of his descendants until it was broken up after 1912.

Girtin generally made few changes to Moore’s compositions, in this case adding a simple figure group in the foreground and inventing a lively skyscape that is not present in the original sketch. Girtin did, however, correct Moore’s faulty perspective and succeeded in giving the ruined east end of the church a more monumental quality so that his watercolour more closely approximates the east end’s actual height than the amateur’s on-the-spot drawing. The cathedral at St Andrews was the largest in Scotland when it was dedicated in 1318 and it became the centre of the Catholic Church in Scotland. Following the Reformation, the cathedral was abandoned in 1561 in favour of the local parish church and the building was left to fall into the ruined state recorded by Moore in 1792. Moore made at least two other drawings of the cathedral on 30 August, from one of which (see figure 1) he commissioned Dayes to produce a view of the ruined east end from a different angle (see figure 2). It was this composition that was engraved for Robert Forsyth’s The Beauties of Scotland (Forsyth, 1805–8, vol.4, p.96).



by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The document detailing the payments made to the young Girtin by Moore is transcribed in full in the Documents section of the Archive (1792–93 – Item 1).

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