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

A Distant View of the Grande Chartreuse

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0760: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Distant View of the Grande Chartreuse, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 18.5 × 23 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 in. Private Collection, untraced.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: TG0760, John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Distant View of the Grande Chartreuse, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 18.1 x 23.8 cm, 7 1/8 x 9 3/8 in (Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (B1977.14.4617))

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

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • A Distant View of the Grande Chartreuse
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
18.5 × 23 cm, 7 ¼ × 9 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
French View: The Alps

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie's, 27 June 1833, lot 81 as 'Rocca del Papa, Chartreuse, &c., 3', by 'Turner'; bought by 'Hixon', £6 15s; ... Sotheby’s, 24 November 1977, lot 41 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This distant view of the Grande Chartreuse, the extensive monastery deep in the French Alps, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see the source image above). It was produced at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), where Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) 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’. The majority of the resulting watercolours saw the two artists engaged in a unique collaboration; as they later recalled, Girtin ‘drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’. ‘They went at 6 and staid till Ten’ 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

Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by Cozens, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour, a simple outline inscribed ‘Grand Char = Octr-25’, was almost certainly purchased at Cozens’ studio sale in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827).2 As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection, now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). The source drawing was traced by Cozens from an on-the-spot sketch he made on the return from a second visit to Italy in 1783 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.429), when the artist travelled to the great Carthusian monastery high in the mountains at the behest of his patron William Beckford (1760–1844). The sketch is contained in the last of the seven sketchbooks that survive from the trip (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.10.11)), and it was presumably traced by Cozens because the books were retained by Beckford. The spectacular setting of the monastery provided the subject for another Monro School watercolour, A Narrow Gorge Leading to the Grande Chartreuse (TG1358).

The bulk of the works sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton, which established the joint authorship of many of the Monro School copies, this watercolour was still listed as solely by Turner when it last appeared on the art market (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The work is known only from a black and white photograph taken in 1982, and at this distance all that can be said with any confidence is that there is nothing to suggest that it is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin.

1794 - 1797

A Narrow Gorge Leading to the Grande Chartreuse


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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

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