J.M.W. Turner, Tintern Abbey, the transept, a watercolour

England, around AD 1795

Even before he had entered the Royal Academy schools at the age of 14, Turner had worked as an architectural draughtsman. This training is evident in his fascination with the details of the famous ruins of this twelfth-century Cistercian Abbey in Monmouthshire, which he visited in 1792, and again in 1793. Tourists of the time were as much impressed by the way that nature had reclaimed the monument as by the scale and grandeur of the buildings. Turner's blue-green washes over the abbey's far wall blend stone and leaf together, and on the near arch the spiralling creepers seem to make the wind and light tangible. The figures of the elegant tourist party and the lean gardener may have been added by another artist working in collaboration with Turner, a common method of production at the time. From 1795 to 1798 Turner was employed by Dr Monro in the evenings to paint washes over copies of watercolours by J.R. Cozens, for which Thomas Girtin drew the outlines.

This may be the watercolour of Tintern Abbey that Turner exhibited at the Royal Academy in 1795, but some doubt remains - another watercolour of the same subject is now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford.

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More information


K. Sloan, J. M. W. Turner: watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1998)


Height: 345.000 mm
Width: 254.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1958-7-12-400


R.W. Lloyd Bequest


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