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

A River amongst Rocks, with a Castle on a Hill

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0513: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A River amongst Rocks, with a Castle on a Hill, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.1 × 35 cm, 9 ½ × 13 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXV, 30 (D36551).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • A River amongst Rocks, with a Castle on a Hill
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.1 × 35 cm, 9 ½ × 13 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Hills and Mountains; Unidentified Landscape

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in December 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26–28 June and 1–2 July 1833 (day and lot number not known); bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851); accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1236 as '"Ruins of castle on rock"' by Thomas Girtin; Turner Online as 'A River among Rocky Cliffs, with a Castle' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This unidentified Alpine landscape 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

The watercolour was acquired by Turner at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833, along with numerous other Swiss and Italian subjects and it is now in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 79). Unlike the majority of the drawings acquired from Monro’s collection, this example does not have an inscription recording its subject, and, even though the position of the castle on a hill overlooking a valley appears distinctive enough, no satisfactory location has been established, either in Switzerland or in northern Italy. As with the majority of the mountainous scenes copied for Monro, the source for this work was probably a sketch made by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) during his 1776 journey through the Alps to Italy, though nothing so far has been established for this either.

In addition to giving the colouring of the work to Turner, Andrew Wilton has suggested in the online catalogue of the Turner Bequest that ‘the pencil underdrawing’ is also ‘very possibly by Turner’ (D36551). However, I remain unconvinced that this drawing is any different from the mass of works produced at Monro’s house. Though it is far from being of the highest quality, in terms of both the application of washes and the pencil work, I see no compelling reason to suggest that this one example departs from the two artists’ general practice. Who can say what time pressures they laboured under? This alone might account for a foreground river that is difficult to read.

by Greg Smith


  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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