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Works (?) Thomas Girtin after Unknown Artist

Unidentified Monastic Ruins next to a River

1792 - 1793

Primary Image: TG0254: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after an Unknown Artist, Unidentified Monastic Ruins next to a River, 1792–93, watercolour on paper, 22.9 × 33.7 cm, 9 × 13 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Colnaghi's (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after Unknown Artist
  • Unidentified Monastic Ruins next to a River
1792 - 1793
Medium and Support
Watercolour on paper
22.9 × 33.7 cm, 9 × 13 ¼ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Sale Catalogue


P & D Colnaghi & Co Ltd, 1964

Exhibition History

Colnaghi’s, 1964, no.39 as ’Jedburgh Abbey’

About this Work

This watercolour was titled ‘Jedburgh Abbey’ when it was last seen in public in 1964, but it bears no resemblance to the Scottish ruins that Girtin depicted on a number of occasions. The river location no doubt suggested Jedburgh as the subject of the watercolour, though the architecture is quite different and it is quite likely that the view is an imaginary one. The eccentric form of the gable to the right with two flanking buttresses towering above is certainly not to be found in any early Gothic building. Moreover, the poor perspective displayed in the building means that the relationship of the gable to the rest of the ruins is spatially incoherent and suggests that the artist had no understanding of the basic principles of Gothic architecture or insufficient skill to depict a complex combination of architectural elements in a convincing manner.

The watercolour is known only from a black and white photograph and so it is not possible to be sure about its attribution to Girtin other than to say that if it is by him, it must date from early in his career, when his depictions of architectural subjects were based not on firsthand observation but on the sketches of other, often amateur, artists. Indeed, elements of the darkened foreground (such as the treatment of the water and the conventions employed in the depiction of the foliage) can be related to some of the earliest works he made in the studio of his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), such as the view of Eton College from 1790 (TG0013). In that respect the work resembles another view with an uncertain attribution to Girtin, the unconventional view of Roche Abbey (TG0211), and, as in that case, a final judgement on both its date and its authenticity must await the reappearance of the watercolour or the discovery of a high-quality colour image.

Landscape with Abbey Ruins

A watercolour of what may represent another ruined abbey, once attributed to Turner, has also been linked to Girtin (see figure 1). The form of the tree in the darkened foreground and the foliage have some features in common with this work, but other passages recall the artist’s later style. The muddied colours do not create any credible sense of space, however, and the incompatible mix of elements of Girtin’s style is rendered even more incoherent by an unconvincing sky, where the clouds are neither accurate representations of meteorological effects nor attractive as abstract shapes. The work, according to the website of the Walker Art Gallery, is said to be by an unknown artist working in the ‘manner of Thomas Girtin’, and that is surely the correct attribution.


Eton College, from the River


1792 - 1793

Part of the Ruins of Roche Abbey


by Greg Smith

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