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Works Thomas Girtin after Edward Dayes

Tintern Abbey, from the River Wye

1791 - 1792

Primary Image: TG0058: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Tintern Abbey, from the River Wye, 1791–92, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: WHATMAN), 17.5 × 23.5 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ¼ in. Courtauld Gallery, London, Samuel Courtauld Trust (D.2007.DS.19).

Photo courtesy of The Courtauld, London, Samuel Courtauld Trust (All Rights Reserved)

Print after: Samuel Alken (1756–1815), after Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), aquatint, 'Tintern Abbey, Monmouthshire', frontispiece for Revd. Richard Warner, Walk Through Wales, in August 1797, 1 January 1798, 10.3 × 17.7 cm, 4 × 3 in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection Library.

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Tintern Abbey, from the River Wye
1791 - 1792
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: WHATMAN)
17.5 × 23.5 cm, 6 ⅞ × 9 ¼ in

‘T Girtin’ lower left, by Thomas Girtin; ‘drawn by T Girtin, in the collection of J Walker 1792’ on the back in a later hand

Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; River Scenery; South Wales; The Wye Valley

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and March 2023


John Walker, 1792; ... Charles Lewes Parker; his sale, Christie’s, 15 May 1875, lot 29 as 'Tintern - a pair', 17 gns; ... Christie's, 27 January 1922, lot 36 with TG0067; Christie's, 3 March 1922, lot 27 with TG0067; bought by 'Hibbard', £39 18s; Frederick Huth; then by descent; Sotheby’s, 17 February 1954, lot 18; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £135 (stock no.7420); W. Cooke; Thos. Agnew & Sons; bought from them by Dorothy Scharf (1942–2004), 1985, £9,000; bequeathed to the Gallery, 2007

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1955, no.26, £225; Agnew’s, 1985, no.5; Chepstow, 2014, no.22


Matheson, 2007

About this Work

Although this view of the ruins of Tintern Abbey from the river Wye is not dated, the watercolour and its pair, The River Wye at New Weir (TG0067), must have been produced during Girtin’s apprenticeship to Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and by 1792 at the latest. An inscription on the back records that the work was in the possession of the engraver and publisher John Walker (active 1776–1802) in that year, and it was also copied in 1792 by the amateur artist Thomas Sunderland (1744–1828) (see figure 2), who inscribed his copy ‘Tintern Abbey after T. Gerton 1792’. There is no evidence that Girtin ever visited the famously picturesque ruins on the Wye and, like later views (such as TG0343), it was taken from the work of another artist, in this case Girtin’s master, Dayes. A later watercolour by Dayes (from 1794) employs an identical composition (see figure 1) and was presumably made from the same on-the-spot sketch that Girtin had access to earlier in his master’s studio. Differences in the figures and the vegetation to the left notwithstanding, the two drawings undoubtedly share a common source, with the apprentice, unable to travel, in effect employing his master’s capital.

The fact that the watercolour was first owned by Walker, an engraver and publisher, is clear evidence of the importance of the topographical print trade in supporting Girtin’s earliest professional efforts. However, although Walker engraved more than twenty of Girtin’s works, this drawing was not one of them and, instead, it was reproduced as an aquatint by Samuel Alken (1756–1815) as the frontispiece to the Revd Richard Warner’s (1763–1857) A Walk through Wales, in August 1797, which was published in 1798 (see the print after, above). In the same year that William Wordsworth (1770–1850) penned his Lines Written a Few Miles from Tintern Abbey, Warner wrote a rather more commonplace celebration of the picturesque delights of the ‘loft ruins … rising in solemn majesty, spotted with mosses, and crowned with ivy’ next to the ‘glittering stream’ (Warner, 1798, p.227). The young apprentice Girtin may not have walked along the river Wye, but his secondhand view presumably satisfied the market for views of sites beloved by tourists in pursuit of the picturesque.

In fact, as C. Suzanne Matheson has pointed out, the majority of visitors to Tintern would have travelled down the river and Dayes’ viewpoint on the English bank is adjacent to the ferry and landing jetty used by tourist boats at this date (Matheson, 2007). Writing at a later date about the ruins of Fountains Abbey, Dayes expressed just what such a view could evoke, urging the visitor to ‘Retire to a respectful distance’ and ‘prophane it not with unhallowed feet’. ‘Here is ample scope for the moralist,’ he continued; ‘let him behold here the perishable labors of man’ (Dayes, Works, pp.127–28). Dayes no doubt shared his lofty ambitions for landscape painting with his apprentice, though Girtin as yet clearly lacked the technical skills to imbue his topographical views with such a moral dimension.

1791 - 1792

The River Wye at New Weir


(?) 1797

Tintern Abbey, from the River Wye


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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