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

Conwy Castle, from the East

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0921: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Conwy Castle, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 24.1 × 38.7 cm, 9 ½ × 15 ¼ ins. Huddersfield Art Gallery.

Photo courtesy of Huddersfield Library and Art Gallery, Kirklees Council

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Conwy Castle, from the East
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
24.1 × 38.7 cm, 9 ½ × 15 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; North Wales

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)


John Rushout, 2nd Baron Northwick (1769–1859); then by descent to John, Lord Northwick; his sale, Sotheby's, 4 November 1920, lot 473 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner 'after T. Hearne'; bought by 'Leggatt', £46; Sotheby's, 10 November 1926, lot 9; ... Christie’s, 30 November 1945, lot 32 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; unsold

About this Work

This view of Conwy Castle in North Wales, viewed from the east, was in all likelihood was 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 nine or so are views in North Wales.

Conwy Castle

Neither Girtin nor Turner is likely to have visited North Wales by the time of the production of this work, and the Monro School Welsh views were presumably made after compositions by other artists, principally Dayes, who also provided the models for the Lake District scenes. A finished studio work by Dayes is actually very close to the Monro School watercolour (see figure 1), but the view was taken from a slightly different angle, and further away, and it is more likely to have been based on a slighter sketch. Monro does not seem to have owned any finished watercolours by Dayes in any case. However, amongst the several hundred ‘sketches’ listed in the catalogue of his posthumous sale in 1833 was a view of ‘Conway’ that was in ‘blue and Indian ink’, the medium in which the artist produced his on-the-spot studies, and it was presumably from this image that the Monro School subject was copied (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 46). The spectacular view of Conwy Castle, looking west with the river Conwy to the right, is sadly no longer visible; the construction of the suspension bridge in the nineteenth century destroyed the illusion that the castle is sited on a rocky island. The view essentially replicates Girtin’s slightly earlier image of the castle (TG0107), which he made from a sketch by the amateur artist James Moore (1762–99). Turner himself replicated the view in an on-the-spot sketch that he made on his Welsh tour in 1798 (Tate Britain, Turner Bequest (XXXVIII 50a)), and this formed the basis for no fewer than three watercolours and an oil.

Monro’s posthumous sale included two views of ‘Conway Castle’, both attributed solely to Turner, as were the majority of the copies produced for the patron (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 26 June 1833, lots 92 and 114). 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). In this case, however, the work has remained with the Turner attribution, and, because it is known to me only as a very ordinary online image, it has not yet been possible to determine the extent of Girtin’s contribution. Arguably, Turner’s involvement in the work is not beyond question either, and it is not inconceivable that the watercolour was actually produced by Dayes after all.

1792 - 1793

Conwy Castle, Looking West


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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