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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The West Front of Crowland Abbey

1793 - 1794

Primary Image: TG0286: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) after James Moore (1762–99), The West Front of Crowland Abbey, 1793–94, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 33.1 × 29.8 cm, 13 × 11 ¾ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1934.126.1).

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

Print after: Bartholomew Howlett (1767–1827), after a work 'Drawn by T. Girtin from a Sketch by Ja.s Moore, Esq.r, F.S.A.' (James Moore (1762–99)), etching and engraving, 'Croyland Abbey' for A Selection of Views in the County of Lincoln, 22 August 1797, 29 × 23.7 cm, 11 ⅜ × 9 ⁵⁄₁₆ in. British Museum, London (1872,1012.4821).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
Title
  • The West Front of Crowland Abbey
Date
1793 - 1794
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
33.1 × 29.8 cm, 13 × 11 ¾ in
Inscription

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Part of
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Lincolnshire; Monastic Ruins

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0286
Girtin & Loshak Number
52 as 'Crowland Abbey, Lincolnshire'; '1793'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2016

Provenance

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 Francis Pierrepont Barnard (1854–1931), 1912, £40; his widow, Isabella Barnard; bequeathed to the Museum, 1934

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.47; Manchester, 1975, no.3; Baltimore, 1979, no.40; Oxford, 1992, no.100; Lincoln, 1997, no.29; Oxford, 2015, no.27

Bibliography

Mayne, 1949, p.99; Brown, 1982, p.324, no.708; Hill, Sublime Sites (Online), 'Plate 22: Crowland Abbey, Lincolnshire #1', 29 January 2024

About this Work

This watercolour showing the west front of Crowland Abbey in Lincolnshire is based on two drawings (TG0286a and TG0286a figure 1) made in September 1789 by Girtin's important early patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99). The slightly larger drawing (TG0286a figure 1), sketched by Moore alone in a hard-edged style, includes a section of wall seen in the watercolour though not in the other sketch, but otherwise it was the more loosely worked record of the architectural details that provided the basis for Moore’s commission from Girtin. Comparing Moore's two drawings of Crowland makes it clear that what I take to be the sketch worked on the spot (TG0286a) is of a different order, displaying a more varied and subtle range of touches that suggest that Girtin played a significant part in its production, correcting the perspective and enhancing the architectural details in preparation for producing his own watercolour around 1793/94. Girtin travelled with Moore in the summer of 1794 on a sketching tour of some of the most outstanding Gothic churches and cathedrals in the Midland counties, but though they are recorded as visiting Lincoln it is very unlikely that they would have made a detour to Crowland with sketches of the abbey already secured, and in any case the watercolour appears to predate the trip on stylistic grounds.

The watercolour was engraved in 1797 by Bartholomew Howlett (1767–1827) and was one of ten subjects by Girtin that were included in his Selection of Views in the County of Lincoln (see the print after, above) (Howlett, 1805). Two of the views engraved by Howlett were made from watercolours that Girtin produced for Moore from his own sketches following the 1794 tour (TG1008 and TG1010), but the rest of his contributions to the publication were copied after the work of other artists, something that is generally acknowledged with the credit line to the print in this case noting: ’T. Girtin from a Sketch by Jas. Moore, Esqr., F. S. A.’. It seems that Howlett approached Moore for help with his publication and that the patron, sometime around 1796, lent this earlier view of Crowland together with the two Lincoln views that he had commissioned from Girtin after the 1794 tour (TG1008 and TG1010). At this stage, therefore, there may have been no direct connection between the artist and the publisher/engraver, and the view of Crowland was not produced specifically for engraving. In fact, the print differs in a number of details from the watercolour, including the addition of a female figure and a cow, and the wall has been pierced so that it does not interrupt the view of the west doorway. Moreover, overlaying images of the print and watercolour reveals that the engraver has compressed the proportions of the building, making the tower more attenuated and in the process compromising the perspective of details such as the porch to the left. Indeed, such is the poor effect of the engraving that one might question whether or not it was actually based on this watercolour. However, rather than looking for another Girtin model, I suspect that it was the drawing’s origin as part of a different project that led an engraver of Howlett’s modest abilities to depart from the proportions of his source.

Moore first travelled through Lincolnshire on the way to Yorkshire in the autumn of 1789. A visit to Crowland would have required a short 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.

(?) 1789 - 1793

The West Front of Crowland Abbey

TG0286a

(?) 1789 - 1793

The West Front of Crowland Abbey

TG0286a

(?) 1789 - 1793

The West Front of Crowland Abbey

TG0286a

(?) 1789 - 1793

The West Front of Crowland Abbey

TG0286a

1794

Lincoln Cathedral, from the West

TG1008

1794 - 1795

Lincoln, from the Brayford Pool

TG1010

1794

Lincoln Cathedral, from the West

TG1008

1794 - 1795

Lincoln, from the Brayford Pool

TG1010

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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