A large, Gothic ruin dominates the scene. The west portal of a large church stands with full light, from the left, illuminating its portal. Along its second story ivy grows across the facade while trees cluster in the L-shaped angle toward the right and other vegetation is evident along the roofline of the structure. Several women enter through the main doorway of the building. A stone wall encircles the structure and two houses occupy the land immediately to the left of the church ruin. In the foreground a lane leads past the church with a man leading a black horse and a running hound in the right foreground, and a figure with its back to the viewer is visible at the left foreground. Behind the scene, dark, wind-swept clouds indicate a recent storm that has now passed, allowing golden light to suffuse the landscape.
Ward's depiction of the famous ruined abbey in south Wales on the Wye river portrays the church in a golden light that evokes a bygone age. This lush Romantic landscape with its picturesque ruin and dramatic, stormy sky evokes an image of rural England that was quickly passing in this era of the Industrial Revolution. The gothic ruin was described by William Wordsworth in one of his most famous poems and similarly uses the abbey to recall memories of the past.
Ships at anchor in a lagoon is the focus of this image. Smaller boats are tied to the quay in the foreground and along the horizon line is a cityscape, leading to a large church at the left, with an impressive facade, dome and bell tower behind. A large ship is moored between the viewer and the church. Much of the foreground is occupied by water without boats, leaving the elements of the composition largely in the middle distance.
The subject of the "Nocturne" from the "First Venice Set" is seen here in a daytime view. The Palladian church of San Giorgio Maggiore sits on an island in the Venetian lagoon opposite the Doges Palace, making it one of the principal attractions in central Venice. Whistler usually shied away from depicting the major monuments of Venice, and when he did he often showed the site from an unusual vantage point; in this instance he restricted himself to allowing the reversal typical in etching to suffice in providing a different view of the famous church.