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

Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite Lake, from the Vale of Newlands

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0768: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite Lake, from the Vale of Newlands, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 14.6 × 23.2 cm, 5 ¾ × 9 ⅛ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Agnew's, London (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Edward Dayes (1763-1804)
Title
  • Skiddaw and Bassenthwaite Lake, from the Vale of Newlands
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
14.6 × 23.2 cm, 5 ¾ × 9 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; The Lake District

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0768
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2000

Provenance

Thos. Agnew & Sons; bought by William and Eleanor Wood Prince, Chicago; their sale, Christie’s, New York, 28 January 2009, lot 39 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, unsold

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1990, no.35 as ’Skiddaw and the End of Derwentwater’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Agnew’s, 1994, no.19; Agnew’s, 2000, no.25 as ’Skiddaw from the Newlands Valley, Bassenthwaite Lake in the Distance’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the mountain of Skiddaw, with Bassenthwaite Lake below, 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 at least twenty are Lake District scenes after compositions by Dayes.

Girtin made a number of copies of his master’s views of the Lake District during his apprenticeship, including Lake Windermere and Belle Isle (TG0078). Since he was never actually to travel to one of the country’s most popular picturesque regions, for artists as well as their patrons and customers, he continued to base his Lake District views on the works of others throughout his career. 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 their more finished watercolours. Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained several hundred of Dayes’ sketches, including seven ‘Views on the lakes, blue and Indian ink’ as well as views of ‘Keswick, Glanton, Patterdale’, all presumably made on his only documented visit to the Lakes in 1789, but there is no evidence that Monro owned any of the older artist’s studio works (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lots 42 and 45). Typically, the Dayes source for this view of Skiddaw, identified as being taken from the Newlands valley – and, more precisely, from Rowling End – 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.

Monro’s posthumous sale contained more than forty Lake District views, all of which were attributed solely to Turner (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 26 June 1833; Christie’s, 1 July 1833). Unlike Girtin, Turner did visit the region, albeit briefly in 1797. However, whilst some of the items in the sale may have resulted from this trip, the majority were noted as being in ‘blue and Indian ink’ and therefore employed the same palette associated with the Monro School works. The attribution of the Lake District views to Turner alone has been challenged in recent years following the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, and Girtin’s contribution to this work was acknowledged when it last appeared on the art market in 2009 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Although the watercolour has been more extensively worked by Turner, with a fuller palette of colours than was commonly the case with the Monro School Lake District views, enough of Girtin’s distinctive pencil work remains visible to be reasonably sure of his involvement. Indeed, Girtin on this occasion seems to have added some lines over the watercolour washes, resulting in one of the more satisfying of the Lake District views, and perhaps the one that comes closest to the drawings that Turner made himself following his 1797 northern tour.

Skiddaw and Saddleback

Figure 1.
Unknown Artist, Skiddaw and Saddleback, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper, 21 × 39.9 cm, 8 ¼ × 15 ¾ in. The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (2536).


Digital image courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (All Rights Reserved).

Another view of Skiddaw, together with Saddleback (the local name for Blencathra), was presented to the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, as by Girtin (see figure 1). The work was not included in Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak’s catalogue published in 1954, and there indeed seems to be no basis for the attribution (Girtin and Loshak, 1954).

1791 - 1792

Lake Windermere and Belle Isle

TG0078

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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