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Works Thomas Girtin

The West Front of Jedburgh Abbey

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1230: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), The West Front of Jedburgh Abbey, 1799–1800, watercolour on paper, 36.8 × 30.5 cm, 14 ½ × 12 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The West Front of Jedburgh Abbey
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
36.8 × 30.5 cm, 14 ½ × 12 in

‘Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; The Scottish Borders

The West Front of Jedburgh Abbey (TG1231)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
187ii as 'Jedburgh Abbey'; 'c. 1800'
Description Source(s)
Girtin and Loshak, 1954


John Heugh (c.1813–78); probably his sale, Christie’s, 24 April 1874, lot 12, as 'Tintern Abbey, 14 ½ × 12'; bought by 'Grundy & Smith', 41 gns; Charles James Pooley (1836–1900) (lent to London, 1875); his sale, Christie’s, 6 March 1880, lot 29, unsold; his sale, Capes & Dunn, Manchester, 28 February 1882, lot 40; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, 25 gns, for James Worthington (lent to London, 1884); Arthur Mason Worthington (1852–1916); then by descent to Mrs E. M. Worthington (Girtin and Loshak, 1954); untraced

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.26; London, 1884, no.178


Mayne, 1949, pl.16; Flett, 1981, pp.139–40

About this Work

This view of the west front of Jedburgh Abbey, in the Scottish Borders, is one of two versions of a composition that Girtin sketched during his tour to the area in 1796 (the other being TG1231). The larger of the two watercolours, with its more complex set of figures, is likely to have been one of the two works titled ‘View of Jedborourgh Abbey’ that were shown at the annual exhibition of the Royal Academy in 1797 (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1797, nos.423 or 466), whilst this work appears to have been painted a few years later. The watercolour has neither been exhibited nor sold in public for many generations, however, and is known only as a black and white image of no great quality. The work was presumably seen by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), who included it in his catalogue of Girtin’s watercolours with the note that it differed from the earlier version ‘in lighting effects’, and he dated it to around 1800 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.159). As far as I can tell, the work does indeed display a more dramatic weather effect and a later date is no doubt appropriate.

Jedburgh is situated on one of the main routes from England, and this, combined with the picturesque location of the ruins in the village, helped to make it a popular subject with artists and patrons. Indeed, Girtin produced perhaps as many as six different compositions showing the abbey, including looking from the river (TG1233), viewed from a position above (TG1229), seen from closer to (as here) and from the east, as in two watercolours that were made before his 1796 tour from a sketch by his early patron James Moore (1762–99) (TG0086 and TG0104). Uniquely amongst the views of Jedburgh Abbey painted by Girtin, which all have the appearance of showing a building entirely in ruins, the image of the west front includes evidence of the makeshift structure of the parish church, which was built inside the shell left after the Reformation. Inserted into the empty west widow are two smaller lights, flanked by shutters, and above those can be seen the gable end of the temporary roof, which enclosed the parish church until the opening of the new building in 1875. As the text that accompanies the engraving after Moore’s drawing of the abbey in The Copper-Plate Magazine notes (see print after TG0104), this arrangement ‘exhibits the greatest contrast imaginable to its former splendor’, and this was no doubt the function of the tumbledown cottage, which from this angle eclipses much of the abbey’s northern flank (Walker, 1792–1802, vol.3, no.71, pl.142).

1796 - 1797

The West Front of Jedburgh Abbey


(?) 1800

Jedburgh Abbey, from the Riverbank


1797 - 1798

The Village of Jedburgh, with the Abbey Ruins


1792 - 1793

Jedburgh Abbey, from the East


1792 - 1793

Jedburgh Abbey, from the East


1792 - 1793

Jedburgh Abbey, from the East


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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