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Works James Moore and (?) Thomas Girtin

The West Front of Crowland Abbey

(?) 1789 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0286a: James Moore (1762–99) and (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The West Front of Crowland Abbey, 1789 and (?) 1793, graphite on wove paper, 26.5 × 41.3 cm, 10 ⅜ × 16 ¼ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1916.20.7).

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

James Moore (1762-1799) and (?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The West Front of Crowland Abbey
(?) 1789 - 1793
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
26.5 × 41.3 cm, 10 ⅜ × 16 ¼ in

'12th. Sept.89' lower left, by James Moore

Object Type
Collaborations; Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church

The West Front of Crowland Abbey (TG0286)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2018


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 and presented anonymously to the Museum, 1916


Brown, 1982, p.468, no.1391, as by James Moore, 'perhaps completed by a second hand’

About this Work

The West Front of Crowland Abbey

This pencil drawing of the west front of Crowland Abbey by Girtin’s first significant patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), was made on his first trip to Lincolnshire and is dated ‘12th Sept. 89’. It is contained in an album assembled from fifty-three drawings that were acquired by the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, from Moore’s descendants after 1912. They were catalogued by David Brown as being by Moore himself, but Brown added a note to one of the drawings, a view of St Clement’s Church, Hastings (TG0304), suggesting that Girtin may also have ‘taken a hand’ in the drawing, and he also noted that this outline was ‘perhaps completed by a second hand’ (Brown, 1982, pp.468 and 471). I think it is possible to go a step further and, given that this drawing displays a more varied and subtle touch than a second hard-edged version of the abbey's west front by Moore (see figure 1), I suspect that Girtin himself played a significant role in its production. The contrast in quality between the two pencil drawings, particularly in the architectural details, suggests that the sheet catalogued here (TG0286a) was corrected and enhanced by Girtin, working over Moore’s earlier sketch with a sharper and more richly toned piece of graphite, whilst the second drawing, also dated 1789, is likely to be the amateur's own reworking of the on-the-spot sketch. Moreover, given that the drawings provided the basis for a studio watercolour commissioned by Moore around 1793–94 (TG0286), we can reasonably assume that Girtin adapted his patron’s sketch at that time and that both the watercolour and its sources predate Girtin’s first significant trip outside London, which he undertook in the company of Moore in the summer of 1794 and which indeed took in at least one other Lincolnshire location (TG1007) as well as the nearby Peterborough (TG1014).

Moore’s first visit to Lincolnshire occurred on the way to Yorkshire in the autumn of 1789. A visit to Crowland would have required a detour from his route, but the antiquarian would have been well rewarded for his efforts by the abbey’s picturesque ruins. Just as John Sell Cotman (1782–1842) was to do a few years later, Moore chose a viewpoint close to the ruined south aisle of the west front of the abbey from where the banks of arcading, with their fine display of medieval statuary, are seen to good effect.1 The viewpoint was also well calculated to show off the generous proportions of the tower and spire, which were added to the west end of the north aisle in the later fifteenth century to provide accommodation for parishioners within the abbey, and which were left standing complete after the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

(?) 1795

St Clement’s Church, with Hastings in the Distance


(?) 1789 - 1793

The West Front of Crowland Abbey


1793 - 1794

The West Front of Crowland Abbey


(?) 1794

Lincoln Cathedral, from the West


(?) 1794

The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 Cotman's depiction of the west front of Crowland Abbey in pencil, watercolour and print are the subject of three highly informative articles by David Hill in his online publication, Sublime Sites: Explorations in the Footsteps of Turner, Cotman, Ruskin and Others.

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