John Robert Cozens (1752–97), son of the influential artist and teacher Alexander Cozens (1717–86), was the most significant landscape painter of the older generation of watercolourists and works such as Part of Padua from the Walls and Lake Nemi, Looking towards Genzano (see TG0705 figure 1 and TG0632 figure 1), known for their poetic qualities, offer an obvious precedent for the innovations introduced during their careers by Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). The watercolours that resulted from Cozens’ two continental tours – to Switzerland and Italy in 1776–79 and Italy again in 1782–83 – in the company of the wealthy patron and writer William Beckford (1760–1844) provided the younger generation of artists with an encyclopaedic range of landscape effects and compositional types. However, the extent to which Girtin had access to the original watercolours, as opposed to the tracings, sketches and outlines that provided the basis for the copies commissioned from Girtin and his collaborator Turner at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), is increasingly open to question. Cozens suffered a mental breakdown around 1794 and it has generally been assumed that Monro gained access to his watercolours when Cozens was placed under his care in his role as principal physician at the Bethlem Hospital and that they were subsequently made available to the two young artists. However, following a thorough study by Kim Sloan of the contents of Cozens’ studio sale, held after his incapacitation in 1794, it now seems clear that the material consulted by the young Girtin and Turner consisted almost exclusively of outlines and monochrome sketches and that their task was to transform the modest nature of drawings that, in all likelihood, were only borrowed by Monro (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.79–97). Nonetheless, amongst the several hundred watercolours based on Cozens’ sketches, there is ample evidence that the older artist’s compositions, at least, were of great significance. Thus a Cozens sketch such as Fano on the Adriatic (see source image TG0708) provided the model for The Coast of Dorset, with Lyme Regis Below (TG1250), whilst the monumental character of the landscape setting for Lindisfarne Castle (TG1113) would be unthinkable without the intermediary Monro School drawing An Unidentified Fort on a Cliff by the Sea (TG0662), which was almost certainly based on a lost Italian outline by Cozens.

Many of the original sketches by Cozens that Girtin and Turner copied have not been traced, including all of the drawings of Swiss scenery and most of the views of Rome and its environs from the earlier of his tours. It is not inconceivable, therefore, that the source of the young artists’ views lay in the work of another artist, though on balance it is much more likely that their drawings are a reliable guide to a wealth of lost material by Cozens. As Kim Sloan has also pointed out, the 1794 sale made no distinction between the Cozens father and son, and it is also therefore likely that a number of the Italian views created by Girtin and Turner were from lost sketches by Alexander (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.79–81).

1794 - 1797

Part of Padua, Seen from the Walls


1794 - 1797

Lake Nemi, with Genzano in the Distance


1794 - 1797

Fano, on the Adriatic Coast


(?) 1797

The Coast of Dorset, with Lyme Regis Below


1796 - 1797

Lindisfarne Castle


1794 - 1797

An Unidentified Fort on a Cliff by the Sea


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