Thomas Girtin

Guisborough Priory, Yorkshire


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Thomas Girtin 1775–1802
Watercolour on paper
Support: 629 × 508 mm
Presented by the Art Fund (Herbert Powell Bequest) 1967

Display caption

Here, a subject that in previous generations would have been treated simply as a record of a particular place forms the basis for a much more imaginative composition. Girtin creates drama by emphasising the verticality of the architecture, which he shows as a silhouette against the sky. In this way he evokes the feelings of vertiginousness associated with the Sublime.

Girtin was Turner's exact contemporary, but he died at the tragically young age of twenty-seven. His innovative watercolours were admired for their 'daring and vigorous execution'.

Gallery label, August 2004

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Catalogue entry

Thomas Girtin 1775–1802

T00993 Guisborough Priory, Yorkshire 1801

Inscribed ‘Girtin 1801’, b.c.
Watercolour, 24¾ x 20 (63 x 51).
Presented by the National Art-Collections Fund from the Herbert Powell Bequest 1967.
Coll: Samuel Addington by 1877; W Waters; Herbert Powell, entrusted to the N.A.-C.F. 1929.
Exh: Winter Exhibition, Grosvenor Gallery, 1877–8 (308); Agnew’s, 1953 (1); see also under Atkins T00964.
Lit: Martin Hardie, ‘A Sketch-Book of Thomas Girtin’, in Walpole Society, XXVII, 1939, pp.93–4, under no. 13, repr. pl. XVIII (b); J Mayne, Thomas Girtin, 1949, pl. 38; T Girtin & D Loshak, The Art of Thomas Girtin, p.193, no. 430 iii.

This watercolour and a similar one in the National Gallery of Scotland, also dated 1801 (Girtin & Loshak, op. cit., no. 430 ii, fig. 70), are based on a pencil drawing in Girtin’s sketchbook (Hardie, op. cit., p. 93, no. 13, repr. pl. XVIII(a).).

Published in The Tate Gallery Report 1967–1968, London 1968.

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