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Works Thomas Girtin

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet

1797 - 1798

Primary Image: TG1094: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet, 1797–98, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 33 × 54.2 cm, 13 × 21 ⅜ in. Private Collection, Norfolk (I-E-14).

Photo courtesy of Matthew Hollow (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet
1797 - 1798
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
33 × 54.2 cm, 13 × 21 ⅜ in
Object Type
Unfinished Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Durham and Northumberland; River Scenery

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet (TG1093)
Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet (TG1711)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
350 as 'Warkworth Castle ... re-sketched and coloured on the spot'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and April 2022


Sir James Thomas Knowles (1831–1908); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 May 1908, lot 262 as 'Landscape Studies, 5'; bought by J. Palser & Sons, £16 (stock no.16493); bought by Sir Hickman Bacon (1855–1945), 22 October 1908, 30 gns; then by descent

Exhibition History

London, 1946, no.94; Arts Council, 1946, no.79; Boston, 1948, no.137; Agnew’s, 1953a, no.31; Norwich, 1955, no.36; Geneva, 1955, no.71; Manchester, 1975, no.63; Nottingham, 1988, no.31


Mayne, 1949, p.106; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.83

About this Work

There is some uncertainty about both the date of this watercolour and its relationship with a pencil drawing of the same composition that Girtin almost certainly made on his first independent tour, to the northern counties and the Scottish Borders in 1796 (TG1093). Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak believed that the artist revisited Warkworth in 1800 and that the subject of the 1796 outline was ‘re-sketched and coloured on the spot’, arguing that it was one of five drawings all made from life in 1800 that were later sold from the collection of Sir James Knowles (1831–1908) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.182). Aside from the fact that there is no other evidence to suggest that Girtin returned to Warkworth, the theory adds an unnecessary complicating factor into the story of Girtin’s touring activities, which generally seem to have been much less extensive than earlier writers on the artist claimed. In this case, it would have been particularly uncharacteristic of Girtin to return to a subject for which he already had a perfectly usable sketch, which, according to Girtin and Loshak, provided the basis for a large studio watercolour they date to 1798 (TG1711). The conclusion that this Warkworth view was not sketched on the spot in 1800 does not, in itself, establish the status of the watercolour, though it does narrow it down to two possibilities. Namely, either the work was coloured on the spot, but in 1796, and was thus the source for the finished studio watercolour that I date to 1800–1801, or (and this is the view that I favour) it dates from later and is actually an unfinished version of the same composition, in which case it was indeed based on the earlier pencil drawing. Such are the uncertain, shifting boundaries between Girtin’s work in the field and his studio work that I would be perfectly happy to be persuaded to adopt the former option. However, the fact that this work is on the same scale as numerous finished studio works of 1799–1800, and much larger therefore than the on-the-spot colour sketches, currently tips the balance in the direction of it being an unfinished composition that was abandoned for some reason.

It is not surprising that Girtin sought to make more than one version of this composition since the view he adopted for his on-the-spot pencil sketch was well calculated to display the defensive might of Warkworth Castle. Looking up from the banks of the river Coquet, the late fourteenth-century Great Tower rises up, leading to the Hall Range and the distinctive minaret-like form of the remains of the Little Stair Tower, with the river acting as a natural moat.

(?) 1796

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet


1800 - 1801

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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