Lindisfarne Castle, Holy Island, Northumberland

Artist: Thomas Girtin (British, London 1775–1802 London)

Date: 1796–97

Medium: Watercolor

Dimensions: Sheet: 15 in. × 20 1/2 in. (38.1 × 52 cm)

Classification: Drawings

Credit Line: Rogers Fund, 1906

Accession Number: 06.1051.1


Holy Island is dramatically situated on the northeast coast of England and is reached at low tide by a track over the sand. This watercolor was likely based on sketches Girtin made during his tour to Scotland and northern England in the summer and early fall of 1796, and probably dates from 1797, when he exhibited ten subjects from the tour at the Royal Academy. Much influenced by J. M. W. Turner (1775–1851) and by John Robert Cozens (1752–1797), Girtin imparted a visionary grandeur to the scene. The massive basalt rock, rising above the shore and topped by a sixteenth-century castle, becomes the focus of the composition, overshadowing tiny human figures in the foreground. Relegated to the distant left background are the harbor, fishing village, and church of Saint Mary, with its extensive ruins of a priory and monastery.