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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) James Moore

The Ruins of the Great Hall, Kenilworth Castle

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0288: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) James Moore (1762–99), The Ruins of the Great Hall, Kenilworth Castle, 1794–95, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper, 27.9 × 26.1 cm, 11 × 10 ½ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1916.7).

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The Ruins of the Great Hall, Kenilworth Castle
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on wove paper
27.9 × 26.1 cm, 11 × 10 ½ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; Copy from an Unknown Source
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; The Midlands

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
132 as 'The Ruins of the Castle Hall, Kenilworth'; '1795–6'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 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 the Museum, 1916


Bell, 1915–17, pp.74–76; Mayne, 1949, p.32; Hardie, 1966–68, vol.2, p.19 as 'Gothic Ruins'; Brown, 1982, pp.334–35, no.729 as 'Ruined Windows, Kenilworth Castle'; Wilton, 1984a, p.19

About this Work

Earlier commentators, particularly Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, argued that a group of watercolours of the castles at Kenilworth and Warwick were produced by Girtin from pencil studies he made on his tour of the Midland counties in the summer of 1794 in the company of his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.150). However, there is no clear evidence that the two men visited either Kenilworth or nearby Warwick on the tour, and it looks increasingly likely that this watercolour, and another view of the castle, Kenilworth Castle: The View from the South (TG0250), were made after the work of other artists. In the case of the other (more distant) view, the source for Girtin’s image was likely to have been an earlier untraced sketch by Moore, who, as the first owner of both Kenilworth views, probably commissioned them. However, this square composition, showing an obscure corner of the ruins, is so unlike anything in the amateur’s very limited repertoire of pictorial schemes that one is compelled to look elsewhere for its source. The work bears a close resemblance in terms of style and handling to another Moore commission, Caesar’s Tower, Warwick Castle (TG0239) and, given that that work seems to have been based on a composition by Michael Rooker (1746–1801) (see source image TG0239) that he exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1794 along with four views of Kenilworth, this may be the case here too, though no precise source has been found.

My understanding of this work, as with the other views of Warwick and Kenilworth, fundamentally parts company with the opinion of earlier commentators in another respect. Charles Bell, the author of the first study to look at Moore’s role as a patron of the arts, argued that drawings such as this view were ‘underpainted preparations intended to be finished in colour’ (Bell, 1915–17, p.75). In other words, the rapidly applied washes of a few tones to a prominent outline were interpreted as the first stage in the production of a studio watercolour that was left unfinished. Given that I am unconvinced that the artist visited Kenilworth in 1794, an alternative interpretation – that the evident dispatch with which the washes and the pen and ink work are applied over pencil outlines resulted from Girtin working on the spot – can also be discounted. Rather, I want to suggest that, like Kenilworth Castle: The View from the South, this watercolour is an early example of new type of commodity: an informal sketch-like drawing that gives the impression of having been made on the spot. From what we know about Moore’s patronage, it would seem that he was one of a growing number of people who were not just interested by the subjects depicted by Girtin but also appreciated the informal side of his work sufficiently to buy sketch-like drawings made in the studio.

(?) 1795

Kenilworth Castle: The View from the South


1794 - 1795

Caesar’s Tower, Warwick Castle


1794 - 1795

Caesar’s Tower, Warwick Castle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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