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Works Thomas Girtin

Winchester Cathedral, from the North East

(?) 1795

Primary Image: TG0276: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), Winchester Cathedral, from the North East, (?) 1795, graphite on wove paper (watermark: 1794 / J WHATMAN), 23.5 × 32.3 cm, 9 ¼ × 12 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1167).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Print after: John Greig (c.1779–1861 or later), after Frederick Wilton Litchfield Stockdale (1786–1858), etching, 'Winchester Cathedral, Hants', 1 February 1812, 11.2 × 15.1 cm, 4 ⅜ × 6 in. British Museum, London (1902,0818.401).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Print after: John Hawksworth (1784–1863), after Frederick Wilton Litchfield Stockdale (1786–1858), after a 'Sketch by G. Shepherd' (George Sidney Shepherd (1784–1862)), engraving, 'Winchester Cathedral, Hants' for The Beauties of England and Wales, vol.6, 1812, 12.5 × 17.7 cm, 4 ⅞ × 7 in. British Museum, London (1924,0707.74).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • Winchester Cathedral, from the North East
(?) 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper (watermark: 1794 / J WHATMAN)
23.5 × 32.3 cm, 9 ¼ × 12 ¾ in
Object Type
Copy from an Unknown Source; Outline Drawing
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Cathedral View; Hampshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
105 as 'Winchester Cathedral'; 'An original Girtin design'; '1795'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); then by descent to May Le Geyt (d.1942); given to Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 1934; given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

New Haven, 1986a, no.22; London, 2002, no.89

About this Work

View of Old Somerset House from the Thames

This view of Winchester Cathedral, looking from Colebrook Street, is an impressive example of the distinctive drawing style that Girtin developed to record architectural subjects around 1795–96. Girtin’s use of graphite, just as much as his employment of pen and ink (for example, see TG0226), reflects the influence that the drawings of the Venetian master Giovanni Antonio Canal (Canaletto) (1697–1768) had on the artist at this date. It is significant, therefore, that this work came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), who owned a number of examples of the older artist’s drawings, including View of Old Somerset House from the Thames (see figure 1), which, since it was sold from his patron’s collection in 1806 (Christie’s, 10 May 1806, lot 82), has an excellent claim to being a Canaletto known to Girtin. Features in the drawing of Winchester such as the use of short cursive strokes mixed in a highly inventive way with dots and dashes and the characteristic ‘s’ and ‘5’ forms, the employment of lines of alternating thickness depending on the pressure placed on the pencil, and the absence of shading all appear to have been derived from a close study of Canaletto’s drawings. In this case, the complex variety of lines captures equally the forms of the Gothic monument and the humbler picturesque buildings around it, as well as fixing their positions with great accuracy. One distinctive feature of Girtin’s drawing style at this date, the frequent occurrence of a sharp point at the end of a line, does not derive from Canaletto, however. This amounts almost to a nervous tick, but, as Ian Fleming-Williams has pointed out, it may have had a practical function. The artist seems to have rested his pencil on the paper, looked up to check the subject, and then returned to work from the same position on the sheet (Fleming-Williams, 1990, pp.22–24).

This suggestion, not unreasonably, assumes that the drawing was made on the spot, and both Susan Morris and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak related it to one of the artist’s earliest trips outside London. The former, noting the watermark of 1794, dated the drawing to the journey that Girtin undertook with his early patron James Moore (1762–99) in that year, and, indeed, the work has much in common stylistically with the sketches the artist made of the cathedrals at Peterborough (TG1014) and Lincoln (TG1007) (Morris, 1986, p.38). Girtin and Loshak suggested a slightly later date, but they too stated that the work was ‘An original Girtin design’ made on the spot (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.148), and that was my own view until the discovery of an engraving dating from 1812 that carefully reproduces Girtin’s design (see the print after, above). Bearing the convoluted credit line of ‘Engraved by J. Hawksworth, from a Drawing by F. W. L. Stockdale, after a Sketch by G. Shephard’, it raises the intriguing question of why Girtin was not likewise acknowledged. An engraver in 1812 would have been delighted to include Girtin’s name on a print in preference to ‘G. Shephard’, presumably George Sidney Shepherd (1784–1862), and its exclusion suggests two possible explanations. On the one hand, it is possible that the young Shepherd made a slight sketch of Girtin’s drawing at Monro’s home and that the origin of the image was overlooked by Frederick Wilton Litchfield Stockdale (active 1808–48) when he worked it up for engraving. On the other, it is possible that both Shepherd and Girtin worked from a common untraced source and that the absence of the latter’s name on the print reflects the fact that neither actually visited Winchester. So much of the work that Girtin produced for Monro was taken from other sources that even a pencil drawing that appears to have been made on the spot – and depicting a location that the artist could easily have visited – may have been worked at second hand. Moreover, such was Girtin’s skill as a draughtsman that it is not always possible to distinguish from a drawing alone what was sketched from life and what was copied. The issue has been further complicated by the discovery during the course of preparing this online catalogue of another print from the same date (see the print after, above), which is stated to be ‘from a Sketch by F. W. L. Stockdale’, though it varies the forms and positions of the two figures seen in John Hawksworth’s (active 1810–12) engraving and omits the tree shown in Girtin’s drawing. Arguably, the existence of a second print of the Winchester view with no mention of Girtin reinforces the case that his original drawing was made from a shared common source rather than life.

1795 - 1796

Part of the Ruins of the Savoy Palace, Westminster Bridge Beyond


(?) 1794

The West Front of Peterborough Cathedral


(?) 1794

Lincoln Cathedral, from the West


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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