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Works (?) Thomas Girtin and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) Edward Dayes

A Mountainous Landscape with an Unidentified Bridge, Possibly in North Wales

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804), A Mountainous Landscape with an Unidentified Bridge, Possibly in North Wales, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.7 × 38 cm, 9 ¾ × 15 in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA.RS.REF.150)

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • A Mountainous Landscape with an Unidentified Bridge, Possibly in North Wales
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.7 × 38 cm, 9 ¾ × 15 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
North Wales; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2021


John Ruskin (1819–1900); presumably presented to the Ruskin Drawing School, University of Oxford; first recorded in the Ruskin Drawing School in 1906; transferred to the Ashmolean Museum c.1949


Ruskin, Works, vol.21, p.41; Herrmann, 1968, no.64, p.89 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of an unidentified bridge in a mountainous region displays many of the signs that mark the unique collaboration between Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Here the two artists were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797 to copy ‘the outlines or unfinished drawings of’ principally John Robert Cozens (1752–97), but other artists too, including Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). The ‘finished drawings’ they were commissioned to produce were the result of a strict division of labour: ‘Girtin drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. As the young artists reported to the diarist Joseph Farington, ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’ with Turner receiving ‘3s. 6d each night. – Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1 The outcome of their joint labours was substantial, amounting to several hundred drawings, the majority of which, unlike this work, were inscribed with the location.

Identifying the source for this landscape is not helped by the uncertainty over the subject resulting from the lack of an inscription. The substantial form of the bridge precludes a location in the Lake District, leaving North Wales as the most likely region. The four-arched bridge over the river Dee at Llangollen is one possibility if one accepts that the vegetation to the left obscures two of the arches. However, the setting does not match the scenery at Llangollen and, overall, the better option seems to be the village of Beddgelert, which has a two-arched bridge spanning the rock-strewn river Glaslyn. The body of water shown in the watercolour is certainly closer to the rapid waters of the Glaslyn at Beddgelert, though other aspects of the landscape setting are not so close. Monro’s posthumous sale included a number of watercolours depicting the Welsh village, including a view by Turner of ‘Bedkellert … in Indian ink’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lot 68), and this appears to be the most likely location for this work.

Uncertainty about the subject extends to the attribution of the watercolour. Therefore, despite the fact that Luke Herrmann included it in his catalogue of ‘Turner’s Drawings in the Ashmolean Museum’, there are a number of reasons for doubting that artist’s involvement (Herrmann, 1968, p.89). In particular, the application of washes of blue and grey to the pencil work fails to create a credible sense of distance, and the treatment of the water in the foreground is even more concerning. The manner in which the unvarying patches of blue have been brushed in around the rocks is particularly unconvincing and is untypical of Turner’s work. Likewise, the pencil work is too fussy and the touch lacking in variety for me to be sure that we are looking at an underdrawing by Girtin. Therefore, although the palette and the relationship between the underdrawing and the washes of colour have much in common with the mass of Monro School drawings, I can see no clear evidence of the involvement of either Girtin or Turner. Indeed, if pressed, I would suggest that we might be looking at the work of Dayes and that this is therefore a rare surviving example of his on-the-spot colour sketches, comparable to examples such as Harrow Common (TG0053) and Gibside Park, from Goodshield Haugh (see TG0053 figure 1). Is it more than a coincidence, therefore, that Monro’s posthumous sale also included a sketch by Dayes of ‘Bedkellert’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 50)?

1790 - 1791

Harrow Common


by Greg Smith

Place depicted


  1. 1 The full diary entry, giving crucial details of the artists’ work at Monro’s house, is transcribed in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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