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Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after Unknown Artist

An Unidentified Bridge over a Stream, Possibly in North Wales

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0777: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851), after Unknown Artist, An Unidentified Bridge over a Stream, Possibly in North Wales, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 28.5 × 38.5 cm, 11 ¼ × 15 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after Unknown Artist
  • An Unidentified Bridge over a Stream, Possibly in North Wales
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
28.5 × 38.5 cm, 11 ¼ × 15 ¼ in

'Turner' on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Copy from an Unknown Source; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sotheby's, 17 November 1988, lot 108 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, unsold

About this Work

This view of an unidentified bridge 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 (1747–1821), ‘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, the majority of which, unlike this work, were inscribed with the subject.

A sketch by Dayes may have provided the model for this work, but without any indication of its subject it has been impossible to confirm this. The subject certainly seems to be British, which all but eliminates Cozens from the list of potential sources, and it is just possible that the bridge features in a watercolour by Dayes of the Pont Aberglaslyn in North Wales, TG0918. There are a number of differences in its form, not least in the way in which the bridge is shown to frame a waterfall in the Dayes watercolour, but such a detail might not have been visible if the Monro School artists worked from a slight sketch of the subject. The height of the falls seems to have been greatly exaggerated for compositional reasons in the finished watercolour, in any case, and many of the Monro School copies made from known sources include similar if not more significant departures from the original, so it is not out of the question that the bridge shown here is the Pont Aberglaslyn.

The majority of the copies sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were listed as being by 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 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The work is known only from a black and white photograph, and all that can be said with any confidence is that there is nothing to suggest that it is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin, with just enough visible pencil work from the latter to justify the joint attribution under which it was sold in 1988.

1795 - 1796

Pont Aberglaslyn


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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