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

Beddgelert Bridge, North Wales

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0778a: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Beddgelert Bridge, North Wales, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 19.1 × 25.2 cm, 7 ½ × 9 ¹⁵⁄₁₆ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bonhams

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Beddgelert Bridge, North Wales
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
19.1 × 25.2 cm, 7 ½ × 9 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Bridges and Weirs; Hills and Mountains; River Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in April 2022


George T. Veitch; his sale, Sotheby's, 7 December 1927, lot 116 as 'Landscape with a river, bridge and houses in the foreground, mountains in the distance' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; a private collection, then by descent; Bonhams, 12 April 2022, lot 294 as 'A Mountainous River Landscape with a Village by a Bridge' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin; Bonhams, 14 September 2022, lot 193

About this Work

This formerly unidentified view, showing the old bridge at Beddgelert in North Wales, was in all likelihood 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 ten or so are views in North Wales. The new identification of the settlement shown in this work as Beddgelert on the River Colwyn is confirmed by a number of contemporary views of the picturesque location amongst the mountains of North Wales, including a watercolour by Cornelius Varley (1781–1873) dated 1802 that depicts the same configuration of buildings, bridge and landscape (Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.53-1924)).

Neither Girtin nor Turner had visited North Wales by the time of the production of this work, so the Monro School views must have been made after compositions by other artists, principally Dayes, who also provided the models for the Lake District scenes. 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 the more finished watercolours. Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained several hundred of Dayes’ sketches, including a Bedkellert, described as one of a series of ‘blue and Indian ink sketches’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 50). Typically, the precise Dayes’ source of this view of the picturesque old bridge at Beddgelert 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.

A slightly different view of the bridge at Beddgelert is in the collection of Harvard Art Museums with an attribution to Turner (1917.201) though Edward Dayes might be a more plausible option. The watercolour is a poor thing, however, and though its damaged condition might have distorted the issue its manifest weaknesses suggest that it is an anonymous Monro School copy of another untraced Dayes Welsh view.

The majority of the copies sold at Monro’s posthumous sale were listed as being by Turner working 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). This work was attributed solely to Turner until its sale in 2022 when it was judged that just enough of the pencil work was visible to suggest that Girtin was involved in its production (Exhibitions: Bonhams, 12 April 2022, lot 294). The economical use of washes of a limited palette of blues and greys to flesh out the pencil sketch is far from spectacular, but arguably there are indeed sufficient inventive passages to suggest that this is one of the more modest outcomes of the collaboration between Girtin and Turner, comparable to watercolours such as the Dilapidated Cottage (TG0994).

1794 - 1797

A Dilapidated Cottage


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 full in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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