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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

Buttermere Bridge, from the Fish Inn

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0359: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Buttermere Bridge, from the Fish Inn, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card), 7.7 × 11.9 cm, 3 × 4 ⅝ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 14 (D36641).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Buttermere Bridge, from the Fish Inn
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper (card)
7.7 × 11.9 cm, 3 × 4 ⅝ in

‘Mill Bridge / Near Buttermere / Cumberland’ on the back, not in Thomas Girtin’s hand.

Object Type
Colour Sketch: Studio Work; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
The Lake District

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 81 or 82 as 'Views and ruins, in colours, on cards 10'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £8 18s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.817i


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1243 as '"Bridge near Buttermere, Cumberland"' by Thomas Girtin; Powell and Hebron, 2010, pp.124–25; Asquith, 2013, pp.13–16; Tate Online as 'Scene in the Lake District, near Buttermere' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of Buttermere Bridge in the Lake District is one of a set of watercolour cards bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of his and Girtin’s mutual patron Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). The cards now form part of the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain, where the majority of them are attributed to Girtin. The watercolours, all painted on card measuring roughly 3 × 4 ¾ in (7.6 × 12.1 cm), were mainly executed around 1795–96 after a set of outline drawings of antiquarian subjects that Girtin copied from the sketches of his first significant patron, the amateur artist and antiquarian James Moore (1762–99). This example, however, is one of a group of landscape views that, though painted in the same format, may date from a little later. Girtin certainly did not visit the Lake District, and, given that Moore’s views of the region concentrated exclusively on antiquarian subjects, we probably need to look to Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), for the source of this watercolour.

Girtin painted a number of Lake District scenes whilst an apprentice to Dayes, around 1791–92, including Lake Windermere and Belle Isle (TG0078), and these were clearly based on his master’s compositions. Three or four years later, however, Girtin would no longer have had access to Dayes’ studio and his sketches, but Monro is known to have owned a significant group of his drawings, and in all probability it was these that provided the young artist with subjects from a region that he was never to visit. Items in the sales from Monro’s collection, such as the seven ‘Views on the lakes … blue and India ink sketches’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 42), suggest that the lake scenes created by Girtin for Monro were made in the patron’s home and from the sketchiest materials, rather than fully worked watercolours.

The notion that Girtin worked from a slight sketch would explain the anomaly in his otherwise correct depiction of the well-known view of the bridge over Mill Beck in Buttermere. The prominent white house on the hill is actually the east end of the local chapel, but Girtin’s source presumably did not include enough details of the architecture, including the window tracery, for him to represent it as such. This, in any case, is not something that would have worried either artist or patron unduly, as picturesque effect and not topographical accuracy was what counted. It is possible that Monro may have had a publication in mind when he commissioned Girtin to produce small-scale watercolours such as this, but their rapid, even careless execution and sketch-like appearance, suggesting that the work was made on the spot, indicate a different kind of commodity. Indeed, the subjects that Monro chose for this informal sketch-like treatment do not follow any obvious pattern, either by geography or building type, that might have made for a thematically unified publication. It may be that there is nothing that unites the group other than that Girtin’s outlines after the work of Moore, Dayes and others provided a ready resource from which sketch-like watercolours might be rapidly produced.

The paper is discoloured as a result of excessive exposure to light whilst on long-term exhibition. The differently toned areas (top, left and right) were protected by an earlier mount.

1791 - 1792

Lake Windermere and Belle Isle


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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