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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) Edward Dayes

Llanthony Priory

1791 - 1792

Primary Image: TG0066: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Llanthony Priory, 1791–92, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 22.1 × 28.9 cm, 8 ¾ × 11 ⅜ in. Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (WA1941.25).

Photo courtesy of Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
  • Llanthony Priory
1791 - 1792
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
22.1 × 28.9 cm, 8 ¾ × 11 ⅜ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Monastic Ruins; South Wales

Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
11 as '1791'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2016


Revd Francis Milnes Temple Palgrave (1865–1955) and his sister Annora Georgina Palgrave (1872–1949); presented jointly to the Museum, 1941, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, 1941, pp.17–18; Brown, 1982, pp.343–44, no.753 as 'Circle of Thomas Girtin'

About this Work

Llanthony Abbey, Monmouthshire

This view of the ruins of Llanthony Priory church seen from the south east was attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) when it was presented to the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, in 1941. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak catalogued the work as by Girtin, however, dating it to around 1791, and they argued that it was probably drawn from an untraced composition by Edward Dayes (1763–1804) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.135). David Brown, in turn, in his 1982 catalogue of the collection of British eighteenth-century drawings at the Ashmolean, argued that although the work was probably after Dayes, it was ‘too pedestrian’ to be by Girtin himself, and he listed it as being from the ‘Circle of’ the artist (Brown, 1982, pp.343–44). The initial attribution of the work to Turner was no doubt made on the basis of its similarity to two watercolours by Girtin’s contemporary (see figure 1 and Tate, Turner Bequest XXVII R), which were based on a drawing made on his tour of South Wales in the summer of 1792 (Tate, Turner Bequest XII F). In fact, Turner’s view is taken from a more southerly position, from where the river Honddu plays a prominent role in the composition, and Girtin’s depiction of the ruined church is lacking in drama in contrast. Moreover, although the work may indeed be ‘pedestrian’, the adoption by the young apprentice artist of his master’s style, with its characteristic touches in the foreground and the distant lines of vegetation beyond, is typical of works executed in the earliest days of his work with Dayes, including Rochester, from the River Medway (TG0015), which is dated 1791. Indeed, it is the limitations of the work that offer the strongest evidence that the watercolour was made by a very young artist still apprenticed to Dayes and therefore unable, unlike Turner, to travel to the Black Mountains of South Wales to make an on-the-spot sketch. Thus, although Turner’s view has been criticised for the way it exaggerates the form of the foreground, the experience of visiting the spot gave the artist the confidence to develop a dramatic landscape setting that matched the sight of the ruined church amongst the mountains.

Llanthony Abbey

Dayes produced a number of close-up views of the ruined priory at Llanthony, but the only distant scene comes in the form of a watercolour dated 1800 (see figure 2). Earlier views are dated 1792, however, and it is reasonable to assume that this composition was gathered on a tour of South Wales in that year too, and, indeed, that it was based on the same sketch that Girtin adapted for his use. The conventional foreground of the river and the flanking trees in Dayes’ view therefore both show up the wild exaggerations of Turner’s scene and highlight the stark setting adopted by Girtin. Indeed, the featureless foreground depicted by Girtin arguably provides a more appropriate frame for the ruin than either a gentle, flowing river or a storm-tossed torrent.


Rochester, from the River Medway


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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