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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District

1794 - 1795

Primary Image: TG0373: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District, 1794–95, graphite on paper, 15.5 × 23.3 cm, 6 ⅛ × 9 ⅛ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVII 10 (D36580).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District
1794 - 1795
Medium and Support
Graphite on paper
15.5 × 23.3 cm, 6 ⅛ × 9 ⅛ in
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Unidentified Landscape

A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District (TG0374)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1238 as 'Lake, with mountains' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.70b; Tate Online as 'A Lake, with a Boat Drawn Up on the Nearer Shore, and Hills Beyond' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This slight sketch of an unidentified lake scene is one of forty or so outline drawings by Girtin that came from the collection of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and that are now part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. None of the drawings were made on the spot. Instead they were copied from other sources, including Girtin’s first significant patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), and, in the case of pure landscapes, the artist’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). The outlines, generally conforming to Moore’s standard size of roughly 6 × 8 ¾ in (15.2 × 22.2 cm), were probably made around 1794–95, at a time when Girtin was employed, together with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), by Monro to produce watercolour versions of the outlines of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), amongst others. The precise function of Girtin’s copies after the drawings of Moore and Dayes is not so clear, however. A significant number were used as the basis for small watercolours painted on card, measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm). They include this subject, which is one of twenty or so that also found a home in the Turner Bequest, and these may have been produced with a topographical publication in mind (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). That, in itself, does not explain why Monro came to own the larger pencil copies, however. In the absence of any documentary evidence, my hunch is that rather than being commissioned by Monro, the drawings were produced by Girtin for his own use as models for possible watercolour compositions – they all depict views of subjects he could not have seen by this date – and that he subsequently sold them to his patron.

Given the uncertainty about the subject depicted in this drawing, it has not surprisingly proved impossible to identify the source of Girtin’s composition. If the view does depict a view in the Lake District then Dayes would certainly be the most likely candidate. Girtin painted a number of Lake District scenes whilst his apprentice, around 1791–92, including Lake Windermere and Belle Isle (TG0078), and these were based on the master’s compositions. Three or four years later, Girtin would no longer have had access to Dayes’ studio and his sketches, but it is known that Monro owned a significant group of his drawings, and in all probability it was these that provided the young artist with subjects from a region that he was never to visit. Items by Dayes included in the various sales from Monro’s collection, such as the seven ‘Views on the lakes … blue and India ink sketches’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 42), suggest that the lake scenes created by Girtin for Monro, such as Buttermere Bridge, from the Fish Inn (TG0359) and A Bridge in the Lake District, Possibly Grange Bridge, Borrowdale (TG0852), were made in the patron’s home and from the sketchiest materials, though it is not out of the question that this view may show a completely different region.

The attribution of the pencil outlines in the Turner Bequest was a matter of considerable confusion until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s cogently argued article on the Monro School in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.9–10). Initially, Alexander Finberg, the first cataloguer of the bequest, ascribed the outlines to Girtin but thought that they were made on the spot (Finberg, 1913). Charles F. Bell, in turn, recognised that the drawings were copies, but suggested that they were made by George Isham Parkyns (c.1749–1824) in relation to his work on Moore’s Monastic Remains and Ancient Castles in England and Wales (1792) (Bell, 1915–17, pp.60–66). Then in 1938 Bell changed his mind and switched the attribution to Dayes, citing a letter from Turner in which he stated his opinion that the drawings he had bought from Monro’s sale had been produced by Girtin’s master (Bell, 1938–39, pp.97–103). Finally, Wilton’s article seems to have settled the argument, and I for one have no doubts about the attribution to Girtin of the set of drawings.

1791 - 1792

Lake Windermere and Belle Isle


1795 - 1796

Buttermere Bridge, from the Fish Inn


(?) 1797

A Bridge in the Lake District, Possibly Grange Bridge, Borrowdale


by Greg Smith

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