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

An Estuary, Possibly Dartmouth

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0784: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), An Estuary, Possibly Dartmouth, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 20 × 28.5 cm, 7 ⅞ × 11 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Christie's Images (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • An Estuary, Possibly Dartmouth
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
20 × 28.5 cm, 7 ⅞ × 11 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Copy from an Unknown Source; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; The West Country: Devon and Dorset

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2003


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 75 as 'Views of Dartmouth, Lancaster, &c., Indian ink (8)' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Boys', £4 4s; ... Paul Ferdinand Willert (1844–1912); his daughter Dorothy Loyd; then by descent; Christie’s, 20 November 2003, lot 17, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £7,170


Loyd, 1967, no.106, as by 'School of Thomas Monro'

About this Work

This view of an estuary, possibly Dartmouth in Devon, 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. The estuary bears a general resemblance to Dartmouth, but, lacking any sign of the distinctive form of the castle, it has not been possible to establish the location beyond reasonable doubt. However, Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, did include a view of Dartmouth, attributed to Turner (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lot 75), and Dayes is known to have visited the area and to have produced a watercolour of the castle, so the identification of both the subject and its source in a sketch by Girtin’s master is certainly plausible. If this were the case, the work would take its place as one of only a handful of Monro School collaborations with a southern subject.

The majority of the copies sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were listed as being the work of Turner alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm, as here (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The division of labour is all the easier to establish when, as in this case, Turner’s sparing use of a simple palette leaves extensive areas of the paper clear to act as highlights, so that Girtin’s distinctive pencil work is visible in many areas, particularly in the buildings in the middle ground.

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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