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Works Thomas Girtin

York: Pavement, Looking towards All Saints

1796 - 1797

Primary Image: TG1655: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), York: Pavement, Looking towards All Saints, 1796–97, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 27.3 × 37.5 cm, 10 ¾ × 14 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • York: Pavement, Looking towards All Saints
1796 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
27.3 × 37.5 cm, 10 ¾ × 14 ¾ in
Object Type
Exhibition Watercolour; Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
City Life and Labour; Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; Street Scene; Yorkshire View

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
383 as 'A Street in York'; '1800'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 1999


Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1863 (stock no.5531), as 'Street in Oxford'; bought by Thomas Ashton (1818–98), June 1864, £16 16s; then by descent to Katherine Lupton (née Ashton); Christie’s, 14 July 1987, lot 33, £20,900; the Leger Galleries, London

Exhibition History

(?) Royal Academy, London, 1797, no.486, no.489, no.499 or no.726 as ’View of York’; Leger Galleries, 1987, no.10 as ’A Street Scene in York: Numerous Figures by the Church of St Crux, Looking up the Pavement Towards the Market Cross and the Church of All Saints Pavement’; Birmingham, 1993, no.110; Harewood, 1999, no.29


Hill, 1996, p.143; Brown, 2012, p.151

About this Work

York: Pavement, with the Market Cross and All Saints' Church

This view of one of York’s busiest thoroughfares, known as Pavement, was taken from near the bottom of the Shambles looking to the church of All Saints, and it is presumably based on a sketch that Girtin made on his visit to York in 1796. Although the market cross, together with the church of St Croix to the right, has long since been demolished, the street has retained its old line, and All Saints, with its fine early fifteenth-century octagonal tower, continues to dominate the view. Exactly the same scene was also the subject of a pencil drawing by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), who visited York a year later (see figure 1). Both artists included the sign for the Black Horse Inn to the left of their drawings, suggesting to the Turner scholar David Hill that they may have stayed there during their respective trips. Moreover, the work has the distinction of being one of no fewer than three of Girtin’s views of York that depict the same subjects recorded by Turner on his 1797 trip, the others being York Minster, from the South West (TG1048) and York Minster, from the Ouse (TG1049). So close are the similarities between the two artists’ sketches, as well as the watercolours that were derived from them, across a range of northern subjects in addition to the York views, that Hill has concluded that Turner must have seen Girtin’s 1796 sketches before his own tour, and, suitably inspired, have sought out the same viewpoints from which to make his sketches (Hill, 1996, pp.4–5). Unlike in the case of Durham Cathedral and Castle (TG1074), however, Turner is not known to have produced a watercolour of this view, and indeed, as far as York subjects are concerned, he left the field open for Girtin to exploit, and the city and its great minster did not feature significantly in his subsequent long career.

Although Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak dated this watercolour to 1800, presumably assuming that the artist sketched the view on a subsequent trip to York, I have no reason not to think that it was made soon after the 1796 northern tour (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.186). Like Hill, I suspect that the work was one of the four titled ‘View of York’ that were shown at the Royal Academy in 1797 (Exhibitions: Royal Academy, London, 1797, nos.486, 489, 499 and 726). Thus, although the watercolour is smaller than some of the other candidates, the careful attention paid to a wide range of figures – which are similar to those depicted in another street scene, of Newcastle upon Tyne, that was almost certainly shown in 1798 (TG1460) – suggests that it too is an exhibition piece. As in the later view, Girtin appears to have been keen to show that he could do more than just depict ancient buildings, adding a sharply observed contemporary setting that evinces a genuine interest in street life. It is to be remembered that both views are roughly contemporary with a series of street scenes, including Dartford Hight Street (TG0844), and the earliest of Girtin’s major London views, St Paul’s Cathedral, from St Martin’s-le-Grand (TG1395), all of which follow the same format: a curving street viewed from one side leading to an architectural subject in the distance, whilst a prominent foreground is peopled by figures from all walks of life.

1796 - 1797

York Minster, from the South West


1797 - 1798

York Minster, from the Ouse, with St Mary’s Abbey



Durham Cathedral and Castle, from the River Wear


(?) 1798

St Nicholas’ Church, Newcastle-upon-Tyne


1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1796 - 1797

St Paul’s Cathedral, from St Martin’s-le-Grand


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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