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

A View near Keswick, Probably Bassenthwaite Lake

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0767: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804), A View near Keswick, Probably Bassenthwaite Lake, 1794–97, graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on paper, 16 × 22 cm, 6 ¼ × 8 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • A View near Keswick, Probably Bassenthwaite Lake
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and pen and ink on paper
16 × 22 cm, 6 ¼ × 8 ¾ in

‘Betwixt Brathy and Keswick, Lake District’ on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; The Lake District

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sotheby's, 18 June 1970, lot 3 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Dr F. Baekeland, £140; Sotheby’s, 7 July 1977, lot 143 as 'A Mountainous Landscape Between Brathy and Keswick' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £620; Sotheby’s, 11 July 1990, lot 9 as 'Betwixt Brathy and Keswick, Lake District' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £1,870

About this Work

This watercolour, which appears to show the view south from the edge of Bassenthwaite Lake looking towards Keswick in the Lake District, was made at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797. Their task, as they recalled to the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821), was 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, ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’, with Turner receiving ‘3s. 6d each night’ whilst ‘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 of which at least twenty are Lake District scenes after compositions by Dayes.

Girtin made a number of copies of his master’s views of the Lake District during his apprenticeship, including Lake Windermere and Belle Isle (TG0078). Since he was never actually to travel to one of the country’s most popular picturesque regions, for artists as well as their patrons and customers, he continued to base his Lake District views on the works of others throughout his career. As with the numerous copies that Girtin and Turner created from compositions by Cozens, it was the slight sketches and outlines that Dayes made on his travels that were used as the source for their more finished watercolours. Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained several hundred of Dayes’ sketches, including seven ‘Views on the lakes, blue and Indian ink’ as well as views of ‘Keswick, Glanton, Patterdale’, all presumably made on his only documented visit to the Lakes in 1789, but there is no evidence that Monro owned any of the older artist’s studio works (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lots 42 and 45). Typically, the Dayes source for this watercolour has not been traced, though this does not mean we should look elsewhere for its model. Few of Dayes’ sketches have survived and, arguably, the fact that no source can be found suggests that it was a thoroughly unprepossessing drawing that required considerable transformational skills from the young artists. The search for the source of this work has not been aided by the confusing inscription on the back, which reads, ‘Betwixt Brathy and Keswick’. There is no such place as Brathy, though there is a river Brathay, but that runs into Windermere ten miles from Keswick; Bassenthwaite is therefore something of an educated guess, awaiting confirmation.

Monro’s posthumous sale contained more than forty Lake District views, all of which were attributed solely to Turner (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 26 June 1833; Christie’s, 1 July 1833). Unlike Girtin, Turner did visit the region, albeit briefly in 1797. However, whilst some of the items in the sale may have resulted from this trip, the majority were noted as being in ‘blue and Indian ink’ and therefore employed the same palette associated with the Monro School works. The attribution of the Lake District views to Turner alone has been challenged in recent years, following the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, and Girtin’s contribution to this work was acknowledged when it last appeared on the art market in 1990 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23. The watercolour is known only from a black and white photograph, and it is not possible to comment either on the joint attribution or on the precise extent of Girtin’s contribution in the form of underlying pencil work, other than to say that there is no reason to suspect that it was not the product of the same division of labour that the two artists described themselves to Farington in 1798.

1791 - 1792

Lake Windermere and Belle Isle


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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