For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin

The Ypres Tower, Rye

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0342: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), The Ypres Tower, Rye, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 24 × 22 cm, 9 ½ × 8 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • The Ypres Tower, Rye
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
24 × 22 cm, 9 ½ × 8 ¾ in
Object Type
Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


William George Rawlinson (1840–1928) (Lent to London, 1902); ... Christie's, New York, 19 January 1982, lot 283 as 'A House by a Ruined Castle, near a Flight of Steps' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Sotheby's, 9 November 1995, lot 57 as 'Ypres Tower, Rye' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £2,530

Exhibition History

London, 1902, no.2; Hastings, 1998, no.1 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This watercolour was sold as an unidentified scene by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) in 1982 and as by Turner again at a sale in 1995, this time correctly identified as the Ypres Tower in Rye. However, the discovery of the source for the watercolour in a pencil drawing by Girtin’s first significant patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99) (TG0310), has resulted in a change of attribution. Moore’s typically tentative and weak drawing of the tower was elaborated and corrected by Girtin himself, and there is therefore no doubt that he was the author of the watercolour too. The image of the tower in the watercolour is the same size as in the sketch, and it may be that the process of reinforcing the lines of the latter helped to make it easier for Girtin to trace the composition onto another piece of paper prior to adding the colour. In this case, many of the forms coincide and tracing was almost certainly used, but the two chimneys to the right have been reduced in scale to give a greater prominence to the central structure, and this gives additional clarity to the whole. It was once thought that Girtin had accompanied Moore on his tour of Sussex and the Cinque Ports in 1795 (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.28), but the discovery of the origin of so many of his south coast subjects in the sketches of his patron has changed the balance of the evidence. It now seems highly likely that all of his works depicting the county’s fine architectural heritage were produced in London at second hand.

Rye is a hill town and earlier in its history it also had the added defensive advantage of being surrounded by water on three sides. Nonetheless, the town suffered during the Hundred Years’ War with France, and the Ypres Tower was built in the fourteenth century as part of a defensive circuit of walls and towers that included the Landgate, which was also the subject of a drawing by Girtin (TG0223). Unlike Girtin’s other view of the Ypres Tower (TG0336), however, much of the building is obscured by a more humble domestic structure, which hides its role as a prison and courthouse. Moore would not have known it, but he adopted almost exactly the same spot for his sketch of the tower as Sir Anthony Van Dyck (1599–1641), whose drawing dates from around 1633–35 (Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam (V 18 (PK))).

(?) 1795

The Ypres Tower, Rye


(?) 1795

The Landgate, Rye


1795 - 1796

The Ypres Tower, Rye


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.