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Works Thomas Girtin after James Moore

The West Tower of Rumburgh Priory Church

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0251: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after James Moore (1762–99), The West Tower of Rumburgh Priory Church, 1794–95, graphite on wove paper (watermark: 1794 / J WHATMAN), 16.7 × 21.8 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ½ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII, 22 (D36593).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: James Moore (1762–99), Rumburgh Priory, 29 August 1790, graphite on laid paper, 15.9 × 19.7 cm, 6 ¼ × 7 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.597).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after James Moore (1762-1799)
  • The West Tower of Rumburgh Priory Church
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper (watermark: 1794 / J WHATMAN)
16.7 × 21.8 cm, 6 ⅝ × 8 ½ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
East Anglia: Norfolk and Suffolk; Gothic Architecture: Parish Church

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1239 as 'Farm buildings' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.74b as 'Hinton Charter House, Suffolk'; Bell, 1938–39, p.99, as by Edward Dayes; Turner Online as 'Romborough Priory, Suffolk' (Accessed 05/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the unusual thirteenth-century west tower of Rumburgh Priory Church, now the parish church of St Michael and St Felix in Suffolk, is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), many of which were bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) and are now therefore to be found in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. The majority were copied by Girtin from the sketches of either his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99), or his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and none of the drawings were made on the spot. The outlines, all conforming to Moore’s standard size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin, together with Turner, was employed at Monro’s home at the Adelphi to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card, measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), including fifteen or so that found a home in the Turner Bequest, and these may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). In this case the watercolour, if it existed, has not been traced. That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron.

Girtin’s outline was copied from a drawing made by Moore on his tour of East Anglia in 1790 that is dated 29 August (see source image TG0251). Overlaying the two drawings suggests that whilst Girtin may have traced Moore’s sketch, so close is the congruence of the lines, the professional artist also took the opportunity to improve the perspective of the roof in particular. Certainly, this is more plausible than the suggestion that Girtin worked from the prints that were frequently produced after Moore’s drawings. In this case, the aquatint in Moore’s publication Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales differs from Girtin’s drawing in a number of respects and clearly cannot be Girtin’s source (Moore, 1792, p.51). The inclusion of the title on the print is of some significance, however, given that Moore’s typically obscure choice of subject was long misidentified as Hinton Charter House, Suffolk. With the nave of the church barely apparent to the right, and the squat tower having acquired a set of dormer windows at some point in its post-Reformation history, it appeared misleadingly domestic in character.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (1749–c.1820) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

Image Overlay

1794 - 1795

The West Tower of Rumburgh Priory Church


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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