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Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner

St Mary’s Church, Monken Hadley

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0861: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), St Mary's Church, Monken Hadley, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 25.2 × 21.1 cm, 9 ⅞ × 8 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 1 (D36522).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
  • St Mary’s Church, Monken Hadley
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
25.2 × 21.1 cm, 9 ⅞ × 8 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Gothic Architecture: Parish Church; London and Environs

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in December 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 100 as 'Boxhill, Hadley, and Mickleham churches, &c. 4' by 'Turner'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £2 5s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery, London, on display up to 1904, no.34


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1233 as '"Hadley" Church, Salop' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and 'pencil work ... probably by Girtin' (Accessed 13/09/2022)

About this Work

This monochrome watercolour of the fifteenth-century church of St Mary at Monken Hadley in Middlesex was bought at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) in 1833 by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). Girtin’s contemporary purchased numerous drawings at the auction of the collection of their early patron, the large majority of which were collaborations between the two artists that had been produced at Monro’s home at the Adelphi between 1794 and 1797. As in this case, Girtin produced a pencil outline drawing to which Turner added watercolour washes in a muted palette, though the quality of the latter, particularly in the foreground vegetation, is such that Turner’s involvement in the process is open to some doubt. The overwhelming majority of the four hundred or so collaborations commissioned by Monro were made after the sketches of other artists, and Andrew Wilton has suggested that this work too was produced at second hand ‘from a print or drawing’ (D36522). No source for the watercolour has been traced, however, but in this instance the artists would not have been dependent on a secondhand image of a site they had not visited since Turner had already produced at least two views of the church, one dating from 1793, and these were presumably made from his on-the-spot sketches (see figure 1). The dated watercolour, which may have been commissioned by Monro himself, or possibly his father, is of particular interest because it documents Turner’s involvement with the family prior to his employment with Girtin at the Adelphi in the latter part of 1794.

St Mary's Church, Monken Hadley

Turner’s watercolour of St Mary’s (see figure 1) is also worth considering because it neatly points up the particular, if not eccentric, character of what are now known as the Monro School copies, as well as their limitations as works of art. Thus, as early as 1793 Turner was capable of taking a simple topographical subject and using a comparatively full palette to create a more dramatic image with personal significance for the Monro family. The low viewpoint, in contrast to the frankly dull later image under consideration here, ensures the latter, whilst the prominent position granted to the house in the background points to the success achieved by members of the Monro family in their medical careers. The substantial building located behind the church had in fact been owned by Monro’s elder brother, John, after his retirement from his position at Bethlem Hospital, before being taken over by another Monro brother, James. Turner signed and dated his watercolour on a tombstone in the centre of the composition, and this points to a significant contrast with the essentially anonymous monochrome Monro School copies, of which the view of Monken Hadley church is a not particularly distinguished example. It is easy enough to see why Monro might have wanted watercolour copies to supplement his collection of subjects in the form of simple outline drawings. However, a potential motivation for commissioning a local view in monochrome such as this when he already owned a fine depiction of the church by Turner is less clear, and it is perhaps not surprising that similar scenes are rare amongst the mass of drawings produced by Girtin and Turner.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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