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Works Thomas Girtin

A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0374: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.7 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 20 (D36647).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802)
  • A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.7 × 12 cm, 3 × 4 ¾ in
Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10' by 'Turner'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1244 as 'Lake, with mountains' by Thomas Girtin; Finberg, 1913, pl.70a; Tate Online as 'A Lake and Mountains ?in Westmorland' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This informal colour sketch of an unidentified mountain lake is part of a group of twenty or so small-scale watercolours by Girtin in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain; it is based on a pencil outline (TG0373) that is one of forty in the same collection. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were produced for Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) around 1795–96. Some sixty ‘Coloured Drawings on Cards’ were sold from his collection in all (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 7 May 1808, lots 60 and 61; Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 80–83), many of them acquired by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at Monro’s posthumous sale. This is one of a handful of examples where it has not been possible to trace either the subject of the work or its source. Girtin certainly did not visit the Lake District, and, if it turns out that the watercolour does depict a scene in that region, then it is most likely that he based his composition on one of the many sketches by Edward Dayes (1763–1804) of ‘Views on the lakes’ that were sold after Monro’s death and that were presumably in his collection at the time that Girtin was working for him at the Adelphi in London (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 42).

Not knowing the subject of this work certainly does not help us to understand why Monro commissioned the small watercolours on cards from Girtin; indeed, the purpose of the sixty coloured cards that were sold from his collection, only half of which have been identified, remains something of a mystery. It has been suggested that Monro had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin, and the watercolours’ size would indeed have facilitated their reproduction, but their rapid, even careless execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate a different kind of commodity (Wilton, 1984a, p.12). Indeed, the subjects that Monro chose for this informal sketch-like treatment do not follow any obvious pattern that might have made for a thematically unified publication, either by geography or building type. It may be that there is nothing that unites the group other than that Girtin’s outlines after the work of Moore, Dayes and others provided a ready resource from which sketch-like watercolours might be rapidly produced.

1794 - 1795

A Lake and Mountains, Possibly in the Lake District


by Greg Smith

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