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Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

A Bridge over a Waterfall, near Chiavenna

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0497: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Bridge over a Waterfall, near Chiavenna, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 37.9 × 24.3 cm, 14 ⅞ × 9 ¾ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1219).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • A Bridge over a Waterfall, near Chiavenna
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
37.9 × 24.3 cm, 14 ⅞ × 9 ¾ in
Inscription

'Near Chiavenna' on the back, upper left by (?) Thomas Girtin; 'Grisons' on the back, upper left

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: The North

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0497
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001

Provenance

Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 80 as 'A scrap-book, containing 66 sketches in Switzerland, in blue and Indian ink' by 'Turner'; bought by 'Hixon', £21 11s 6d; ... Dr Crawford J. Pocock (1840–90); Herbert William Underdown (1864–1944); Leonard Gordon Duke (1890–1971); bought from him by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960), 1928, £10; given to Tom Girtin (1913–94), c.1938; bought by John Baskett on behalf of Paul Mellon (1907–99), 1970; presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

Sheffield, 1953, no.19; London, 1962a, no.30 as ’Monro School. Attributed to Thomas Girtin’; Reading, 1969, no.28 as ’Monro School. Attributed to Thomas Girtin’; New Haven, 1980, no.173 as ’Monro School: J. M. W. Turner(?)’; New Haven, 1986a, no.114 as ’Near Chiavenna’ by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner

Bibliography

Underdown, 1923, unpaginated, as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.204 as 'Near Chiavenna' by Thomas Girtin; YCBA Online as 'Near Chiavenna' by 'Unknown Artist, Monro School' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a primitive stone bridge over a waterfall in the mountainous region of the Grisons, now known as Graubünden, displays many 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 they were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797, to make ‘finished drawings’ from the ‘Copies’ of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings of Cozens’ and other artists, amateur and professional, either from Monro’s collection or lent for the purpose. As the two young artists later recalled, Girtin generally ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’, which may account for the generally monochrome appearance of the works, and, as the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) reported, Turner received ‘3s. 6d each night’, though ‘Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1

Although no source has been found in the extant works of John Robert Cozens (1752–97), there is little doubt that this watercolour was copied from a composition the artist sketched on his journey to Italy in 1776. The inscription on the back of the drawing, which identifies the bridge as being near Chiavenna, relates the image to a similar view in the nearby Viamala that Cozens sketched and that, in turn, formed the basis for a Monro School view (TG0495); indeed, this view (TG0497) may also show a scene on the notorious pathway that crossed the Hinterrhein river. Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they were probably large in scale and little more than summary outlines, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection. Almost certainly, Girtin worked from a sketch rather than a lost studio watercolour produced by Cozens for his patron Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824), as suggested by Andrew Wilton (Wilton, 1980a, p.61). In all, there are as many as sixty Monro School views of the Alpine scenery of France, Switzerland and northern Italy that can, with varying degrees of certainty, be associated with Cozens’ first trip to the Continent in 1776. Girtin’s employment at Monro’s house may have been a mechanical chore, but in the longer term copying Cozens’ Alpine views, such as this, provided him with a repertoire of compositions that might be applied to the sublime scenery of Britain, such as in The Ogwen Falls (TG1330).

Establishing the division of labour within a Monro School drawing is rarely straightforward, and this watercolour has, typically, attracted a variety of opinions on its status and authorship. Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak argued that it is one of a handful of Monro School subjects derived from Cozens that could be described as ‘wholly the work of Girtin’, whilst Wilton thought that the colouring was ‘typical of Turner’s style’, though he added a question mark after that artist’s name in the title line (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.204; Wilton, 1980a, p.61). Susan Morris ‘attributed’ the work to Girtin and Turner (Morris, 1986, p.49), and I am inclined to agree with her on the basis that I cannot see anything that deviates from the mass of the artists’ collaborations, certainly nothing to contradict the very clear description of their practice at Monro’s house that they themselves gave to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

A Ravine in the Viamala, between Chur and Chiavenna

TG0495

1794 - 1797

A Bridge over a Waterfall, near Chiavenna

TG0497

1798 - 1799

The Ogwen Falls

TG1330

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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