For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works (?) Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

An Upland Landscape with a Rainbow, Said to Be Lowther Fells

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0160: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), An Upland Landscape with a Rainbow, Said to Be Lowther Fells, 1795–96, watercolour, scratching out and rubbing out on wove paper, 22 × 29 cm, 8 ⅝ × 11 ⅜ in. Kendal Town Hall.

Photo courtesy of Kendal Town Council (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • An Upland Landscape with a Rainbow, Said to Be Lowther Fells
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Watercolour, scratching out and rubbing out on wove paper
22 × 29 cm, 8 ⅝ × 11 ⅜ in

'T Girtin' (partially erased) lower right by (?) Thomas Girtin; ‘Roberts drawing lot 125 May 7th’ on the back

Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
The Lake District

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in September 2023


Thos. Agnew & Sons; Jane Leech (1806–84); then by descent to Beatrix Potter (1866–1943) (Mrs Heelis); distributed by the terms of her will to Kendal Borough Council, 1946


Wilton, 2006, p.59, p.149; Alderson, 2007, p.14

About this Work

This intriguing watercolour, once attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), presents a number of problems that centre around the identification of the subject as Lowther Fells in Cumberland, an area that, despite the arguments of Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak, we now know Girtin did not visit (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, pp.41–42). This did not stop Girtin producing watercolours of a number of views in the Lake District very early in his career, however, when he copied the compositions of his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). A pair of views of Lake Windermere (TG0073 and TG0078) was produced around 1791–92 from sketches made by Dayes, who made Lake District scenery an important part of his practice, and it is possible that Girtin’s master provided the model here too. However, the sophisticated means deployed to capture a dramatic moorland scene arguably date from a later part of Girtin’s career and I cannot accept the opinion of Andrew Wilton who introduced me to the work suggesting 1792 for its production (Wilton, 2006, p.59). Whilst it is possible that another artist – such as the amateur Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827), whose sketches formed the basis of seven of Girtin’s Lake District scenes, including Borrowdale (TG1582) and Colwith Force (TG1583) – was involved, it may be that it is the identification of the scene as Lowther Fells that needs to be looked at again. Indeed, there is no specific feature in the mountainous landscape seen here that might pin the location to Lowther, or indeed to the north west of England, as opposed to North Wales, say, and it is not even out of the question that the watercolour is an imaginary composition. The unconvincing way that the waterfall is placed at the centre of the composition, seemingly suspended between two outcrops of rock, is perhaps telling in this respect.

Girtin also produced a number of Lake District views at a later date at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Working in collaboration with Turner, Girtin created several hundred copies of the sketches of a number of artists, amateur and professional, primarily John Robert Cozens (1752–97), but also some Lake District views by Dayes, including Legburthwaite Vale (TG0361), which was made by Girtin alone. Unlike the majority of the Monro Lake District views which employ a simple blue/grey palette verging on the monochrome, Girtin at least makes an attempt to capture some of the sublime qualities of the mountainous landscape in the view of the vale but this hardly prepares us for the dramatic exuberance of the work under consideration here. A dark foreground gives way to a rainbow and a distance misty with rainfall in a bravura display of rubbing and scratching out of colour from the paper. The manipulation of the surface through rubbing and drying is something I associate more with Turner and looking at the watercolour for the first time in 2023 after hitherto working solely from an image I was initially taken aback by Wilton’s reattribution of the work to Girtin. This was clearly not a simple case of a drawing by Girtin being subsequently attached to Turner’s name for commercial reasons. The issue is further complicated by the ambiguous nature of the signature/inscription to the lower right of the sheet. It is just about possible to read it as ’T Girtin’, but is this a case of a creative interpretation of marks that were deployed to represent the foliage in that area, or is the inscription semi-legible because there has been an attempt to erase it in order to increase the chance of passing the drawing off as the work of Turner? Given that there has never been a time when there would have been a commercial advantage to add ‘Girtin’ to a Turner drawing, I think that on balance Wilton’s attribution of a very Turner-looking mountain scene to Girtin is correct, though I have added a question mark to his name to indicate that there remains a significant element of doubt about the status of the ‘signature'.

The watercolour was once owned by the writer Beatrix Potter (1866–1943), who recorded in her journal that it was much admired by the great Victorian artist John Millais (1829–96) in 1884, when it was still attributed to Turner (Alderson, 2007, p.14).

1791 - 1792

The View from the Great Boathouse, Lake Windermere


1791 - 1792

Lake Windermere and Belle Isle


1799 - 1800



1799 - 1800

Colwith Force, on the River Brathay


1795 - 1796

Legburthwaite Vale


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.