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Works Thomas Girtin

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1229: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins, 1797–98, graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper, 24.1 × 51.4 cm, 9 ½ × 20 ¼ in. Private Collection, Bedfordshire.

Photo courtesy of a Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and bodycolour on laid paper
24.1 × 51.4 cm, 9 ½ × 20 ¼ in

‘Girtin’ lower centre, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Exhibition Watercolour; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Panoramic Format; The Scottish Borders; The Village

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins (TG1228)
The Village of Jedburgh (TG1725)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
166ii as 'The Village of Jedburgh, Roxburgh'; '1796–7'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2002


Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 13 May 1881, lot 82; bought by 'Palser', £42; J. Palser & Sons; bought by Edward Cohen (1816–87), 1881; then by bequest to his niece, Isabella Oswald (1838–1905); her posthumous sale, Robins & Hine, 30 March 1905, lot number unknown as 'View in Yorkshire'; bought by 'Palser', 21 gns; J. Palser & Sons (stock no.15967); bought by Felix Tite, 12 July 1905; Christie's, 13 June 1919, lot 55; bought by 'Vicars', £126; J. Palser & Sons (stock no.18095); bought by Victor Rienaecker (1887–1972), 12 December 1922 (Davies, 1924); his sale, Sotheby's, 28 June 1933, lot 8; bought by 'Walker', £175; Walker's Galleries, London; bought by R. Skinner; then by descent

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1953a, no.24; London, 2002, no.41


Davies, 1924, pl.23 as 'Jedburgh from a Height'; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.58

About this Work

This panoramic view of Jedburgh seen from Castle Hill, with the ruined abbey to the right, was painted from a pencil drawing that the artist produced on his tour of the north east and the Scottish Borders in 1796 (TG1228). Unlike the later version of the composition, which dates from 1800 (TG1725), this watercolour preserves the panoramic format of the sketch, and, even though there are only stylistic grounds on which to date the work, it is surely one of Girtin’s earliest uses of an extended view in a studio drawing. The proportions of the original pencil study, equivalent to a full double-page spread from a sketchbook, are changed somewhat by the addition of more sky and foreground, but the work still covers almost twice the width of vision of the artist’s standard landscape view, as seen in the later version. The extended angle Girtin adopted was no doubt inspired by the experience of climbing up Castle Hill and seeing the scene open out beneath him, in contrast to the near views of the abbey, which he took from the terraces below the partially ruined building (TG1233). The viewpoint recalls the town prospects – wide-angled views from an elevated position – of an earlier tradition of topographical art, and was therefore well equipped to capture what Girtin’s later patron John Stoddart (1773–1856) described as a scene full of ‘beauty’ and variety, ‘including the vale, with the town, the wandering river, the rising grounds of Stewartfield, and the distant hills’ (Stoddart, 1801, vol.2, p.283).

There is evidence, however, that Girtin was as yet not fully confident in his treatment of such an extended view, and it is not surprising that when he returned to the subject in 1800, he cut much of the foreground and omitted the abbey ruins altogether. This effectively allowed the artist to move his viewpoint to the left and include figures that are not so obviously out of scale as they are in this earlier version. The disturbing disparity of scale amongst the figures is compounded by a foreground that we should be able to see in some detail given our viewing position, but that is depicted by a dark, crudely painted band that ‘harmonizes ill with the brilliant light and more delicate detail of the village and country beyond’, as Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak suggest. As they also rightly note in their formal analysis of the watercolour, we are altogether made too aware of the ‘distortions’ involved in the use of the elevated ‘prospect’ view (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.58). To include both a village scene, with its close-up genre details, and an overview of a monastic ruin in its landscape setting was to take on too much without the more refined effects that the artist was able to introduce into his later panoramic compositions, and it is telling that when he worked up some of the elevated views of coastal scenery that he sketched on his 1797 tour to the West Country, he adopted proportions that, though still panoramic in effect, were actually much less extended (see TG1251). These were no doubt influenced by the panoramic compositions by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that Girtin copied at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), but it is also possible that experiments in the extended format, such as the Jedburgh scene, were influenced by a more direct contact with his watercolours. Two fine Cozens drawings, The Mouth of the Garigliano (see figure 1) and Mare Morto (see TG1250 figure 1), both showing scenes on the Neapolitan coast, were in the collection of Girtin’s early patron John Henderson (1764–1843), and the panoramic view looking down from an elevated position offers a striking parallel with the young artist’s first essays in a type of composition that was to prove vitally important across his career.

A close copy of this watercolour, executed on the same scale, is attributed to William Pearson (1772–1849) (see figure 2). Pearson was a competent professional artist who was influenced by Girtin’s works and copied them on occasions (Tonkin, 1983, pp.27–34). Contrary to the opinion of Girtin and Loshak, there is no evidence that Pearson forged Girtin’s works for financial reward, and, if this copy is by him, something that is admittedly very difficult to prove, it is likely to have been made in homage to an admired master, though it is not known how he got access to the drawing (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.123).

(?) 1796

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins



The Village of Jedburgh


(?) 1800

Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank


1797 - 1798

The Coast of Dorset, with Lyme Regis Below


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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