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

Conwy: The Town Walls from the South East

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0781: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Conwy: The Town Walls from the South East, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 27.7 × 39.2 cm, 10 ⅞ × 15 ⅜ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXI, M (D36355 ).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Conwy: The Town Walls from the South East
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
27.7 × 39.2 cm, 10 ⅞ × 15 ⅜ in

'Landscape of Ruined castle 1796' on the back, by Charles Francis Bell

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; North Wales

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

Fourth Loan Exhibition, 1896–1931, no.5 as ’An Italian Scene’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Turner Online as 'Conwy, North Wales, from the East, with Allt-Wen in the Distance' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the town walls of Conwy in North Wales was made at the home Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) and was bought at his posthumous sale by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). It was here that Turner and his almost exact contemporary, Girtin, 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). As they recalled to the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821), the ‘finished drawings’ were the result of a strict division of labour: ‘Girtin drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. The young artists reported that ‘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.

Neither Girtin nor Turner had visited North Wales by the time of the production of this work, and 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 ‘Conway’, described as one of a series of ‘blue and Indian ink sketches’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 46). Typically, the precise Dayes source of this view of the town walls, a rare view of Conwy with no reference to the castle, 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.

This is one of several hundred works bought by Turner at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, the majority of which were attributed to him alone. The cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, in contrast thought that Girtin was responsible for many of the watercolours, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, pp.1226–44; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The division of labour is all the easier to establish when, as here, Turner’s sparing use of a simple palette of blues and greys leaves extensive areas of the paper clear to act as highlights, so that Girtin’s distinctive pencil work is visible in many areas, particularly in the buildings and the vegetation in the foreground.

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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