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Works (?) Thomas Girtin and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner

The High Street at Egham

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0929: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), The High Street at Egham, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 21 × 29.6 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851)
  • The High Street at Egham
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
21 × 29.6 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅝ in

'Egham' upper right

Object Type
On-the-spot Colour Sketch
Subject Terms
Street Scene; Surrey View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2012


Blanche Susan Fanny Burney (1858–1944); her cousin, Edith Mary Burke Powell (Lady Powell, née Wood) (1848–1934); her goddaughter Stella Alleyne; her sale, Sotheby's, 6 June 1945, lot 5 as 'a parcel of works by William Alexander, Thomas Hearne etc'; bought by 'Rham', £34; Norman Dakeyne Newall (1888–1952); his widow, Leslia Newall (d.1979); Christie's, 14 December 1979, lot 85 as 'Egham' by William Alexander, £400; Richard Grey; Christie's, South Kensington, 6 December 2012, lot 248 as 'Attributed to' Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £2,750

About this Work

This view of the High Street in the Surrey village of Egham displays some of the signs that mark the unique collaboration between Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Here the two artists 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 the patron’s neighbour, the amateur John Henderson (1764–1843), who lent his ‘outlines for this purpose’ (Farington, Diary, 30 December 1794). The division of labour was described by the artists themselves: ‘Girtin drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’, they reported to the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821), with Turner receiving ‘3s. 6d each night’, though ‘Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1

The source for this drawing has not been traced, though, because of the similarities between it and two Monro School street scenes – Dover: Snargate Street, Looking West (TG0842) and Dartford High Street (TG0844) – it would not be unreasonable to assume that the model was a lost outline drawing by Henderson, whose sketch for the Dartford view has survived (see source image TG0843). The key to establishing the author of the source for what appears to be a similar copy may well lie in the discovery of the personal connection with the village depicted, since, although Egham is perfectly picturesque, there is nothing to distinguish it from numerous other rural high streets in the Home Counties. It is difficult not to feel that there must have been a particular, personal reason why Monro, if it was indeed Girtin and Turner’s early patron, chose to commission a copy of such an unexceptional view in an area where he is not known to have had any connections.

Similar uncertainties surround the attribution of the drawing: although the pencil work bears much in common with Girtin’s manner, the washes of colour, despite being in the characteristic Monro School palette of greys and blues, are applied as a set of sharp contrasts without the subtle weaving together of tones that gives the best of the copies a satisfying harmony. It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, to find that the attribution to the two artists in the 2012 auction catalogue came with a question mark, and only a generation ago in 1979 the watercolour was sold as by another artist associated with Monro, the older William Alexander (1767–1816). From my perspective, perhaps the most troubling aspect of the watercolour is the presence in the sky of an inscription, ‘Egham’, which identifies the location but throws doubt on the work’s status. Girtin frequently inscribed his contributions for Monro, but always on the back of the drawing, and in any case this does not look like his handwriting. The position of the inscription would suggest that the work, rather than being a copy, is actually an on-the-spot sketch, and I suspect that the earlier attribution to Alexander may well be correct after all.

1795 - 1796

Dover: Snargate Street, Looking West


1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


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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