Before entering the Royal Academy schools at age 14, Turner worked as an architectural draughtsman. This is evident in his attention to detail with the ruins of this twelfth-century Cistercian Abbey in Monmouthshire. He visited here in 1792 and 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. The spiralling creepers on the near arch seem to make the wind and light tangible. The figures of the tourist party and gardener may have been added by another artist working in collaboration with Turner. This was 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. Thomas Girtin drew the outlines for these.
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.