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Works (?) Thomas Girtin

Warkworth Church, with the Bridge Beyond

1799 - 1800

Primary Image: TG1776: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Warkworth Church, with the Bridge Beyond, 1799–1800, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 27 × 21 cm, 10 ⅝ × 8 ¼ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (156-1890).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
Title
  • Warkworth Church, with the Bridge Beyond
Date
1799 - 1800
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
Dimensions
27 × 21 cm, 10 ⅝ × 8 ¼ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; River Scenery

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG1776
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001, 2018 and 2022

Provenance

Lady Mary Fox; P & D Colnaghi & Co.; bought by Dr John Percy (1817–89), £7, 9 January 1876; his posthumous sale, Christie's, 17 April 1890, lot 518; bought by 'Vokins' for the Museum, £33 12s

Exhibition History

Bristol, 1906, no.63

Bibliography

Davies, 1924, pl.50 as 'Church by a River'; V&A, 1927, p.232 as 'Landscape, with Church Beside a River'; The Connoisseur, vol.88, no.361 (September 1931), p.182; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.152 as 'formerly attributed to' Thomas Girtin; Hackney, 1990, p.44; V&A Collections Online as 'Landscape, with church beside a river' by Thomas Girtin (Accessed 16/05/2023)

About this Work

The subject of this badly faded watercolour had hitherto not been identified and this combination of factors no doubt led to doubts about its attribution. The work was bought by the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, as by Girtin, but it was not included in the catalogue of his works published by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, and the museum’s latest catalogue of its collection of watercolours lists it as ‘formerly attributed to’ the artist (Girtin and Loshak, 1954; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.152). Indeed, the artist’s descendant included an image of the work in a file titled ‘Weeds on the Wall’, a collection of watercolours he thought had been wrongly attributed to Girtin, noting that it was probably by John Henderson (1764–1843) (Girtin Archive, 14). However, in a reversal of the more common pattern whereby I tend to be more critical of the sometimes overly enthusiastic appraisals of Girtin and Loshak, I suggest that the de-attribution in this case should be reconsidered. I suspect that the earlier authors did not make sufficient allowance for the way the condition of the watercolour has been badly affected, so much so that the sky has completely disappeared and the remainder of the composition has faded to little more than a dull monochrome – a thin strip to the left that was once protected by a mount hints at what has been lost. The point is that, despite this, there are some fine passages still evident, including the patterns on the wall in the middle ground and the reflections in the water. Combined with the unconventional nature of the composition, this might, on its own, have been enough to suggest that Girtin was the author of the watercolour after all, but the discovery of the location of the river scene during the late stages of the production of this online catalogue has confirmed the attribution. Girtin not only visited Warkworth on his 1796 tour of Northumbria and the Scottish Borders but also portrayed the distinctive spire of St Lawrence’s church in a watercolour dated 1800 (TG1710). Beginning with two views of Warkworth Castle (TG0121 and TG0177), painted after drawings by the amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), Girtin depicted the picturesque town on the river Coquet on at least half a dozen occasions, including in views of the famous Hermitage (TG1096) and the castle again (TG1711), and there now seems little doubt that this watercolour should join what amounts to one of the most significant groups of the artist’s subjects.

The Church & Bridge, Warkworth

It is perhaps not surprising that the subject of this watercolour had not hitherto been recognised since, as a visit to Warkworth confirms, tree growth has long since obscured the view of the church from this angle. It was only the chance discovery of an early photograph (see figure 1) that captured the distinctive alignment of bridge, river and church that resulted in the work’s identification. Therefore, what had initially seemed to my eye to have been either an invented composition or a mix of elements from different locations turned out to be a carefully recorded view that combines the principal elements of two other Warkworth scenes, the aforementioned church and the late fourteenth-century bridge over the river Coquet, known from the engraving published in 1797 (see print after TG1099). The latter fact is significant since it suggests that although this watercolour too is likely to date from around 1800, it was based on a lost sketch made on the 1796 tour.

1800

Warkworth Church

TG1710

1792 - 1793

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet

TG0121

1792 - 1793

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet

TG0177

1798

Warkworth Hermitage

TG1096

1800 - 1801

Warkworth Castle, from the River Coquet

TG1711

1796 - 1797

The Bridge at Warkworth, with the Castle Beyond

TG1099

by Greg Smith

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