THOMAS GIRTIN (LONDON 1775-1802)
The interior of Exeter Cathedral
signed 'Girtin' (lower left)
pencil and watercolour heightened with touches of bodycolour on buff paper
171⁄2 x 241⁄8 in. (44.4 x 61.2 cm.)
James Moore, and by descent to
The Moore-Miller Collection; Christie's, London, 25 February 1916, lot 65 (20 gns to Leggatt).
Sir Geoffrey Harmsworth, on display in the offices of the Western Morning News, Plymouth.
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'Obituary of Thomas Girtin', Gentleman's Magazine, 1803, vol. LXXIII, p. 187.
C. F. Bell, 'Fresh light on some Watercolour Painters of the Old British School', Walpole Society, vol. V, 1917, pp. 76-77.
T. Girtin and D. Loshak, The Art of Thomas Girtin, London, 1954, p. 208 (as untraced).
London, Royal Academy, 1798, no. 538.
Manchester, Manchester Art Gallery, Art Treasures, 1857, no. 74.
London, Burlington Fine Arts Club, 1875, no. 44.
This drawing dates from Girtin's 1797 tour of the West Country. This was his second independent tour, following a 1796 trip to Yorkshire, Northumberland and the Scottish Borders. By this date, his practice was to make extensive pencil sketches, which he would use to produce finished watercolours on his return home. The majority of the pictures that he produced from these trips are of popular tourist sites, which would appeal to potential patrons, and churches and cathedrals were a particular favourite. Interiors, such as the present work, are more unusual in his oeuvre, but there are a few from this tour, reflecting Girtin’s interest in Gothic architecture, and in the play of light through the cathedral windows. During the 1797 tour, Girtin experimented with using Chinese white highlights.
The drawing was first bought by the Cheapside linen-draper and keen antiquarian James Moore, one of Girtin's earliest patrons, descending in the Moore-Miller family until sold at Christie's in 1916. From 1791 to 1795 Girtin had worked for Moore, translating his pencil drawings of gothic cathedrals and monuments into more sophisticated watercolours. Girtin based his first important Royal Academy watercolour of 1794, Ely Cathedral (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford), on a drawing by Moore.