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

A River View near Grindelwald, Looking towards the Wetterhorn

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0467: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A River View near Grindelwald, Looking towards the Wetterhorn, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.4 × 37.7 cm, 9 ⅝ × 14 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.3.1246).

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 River View near Grindelwald, Looking towards the Wetterhorn
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.4 × 37.7 cm, 9 ⅝ × 14 ⅞ in

'TURNER, J. : | GRINDELWALD' on the back, lower right; 'Near Grindelwald' on the back, lower right

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; River Scenery; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


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; ... George Guy Greville, 4th Earl of Warwick (1818–93); Thomas Halsted; Henry Harper Benedict (1844–1935); his widow, Josephine Katharine Benedict (1879–1961); her posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 14 November 1962, lot 47 as 'Near Grindelwald' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; John Mitchell & Son, 1975; bought from them by Paul Mellon (1907–99); presented to the Center, 1975

Exhibition History

London, 1922, no.65; London, 1970, no.59 as ’Near Grindelwald’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; New Haven, 1980, no.170 as by ’Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner(?)’; New Haven, 1986a, no.115 as by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner


Gage, 1987, pp.28-29 as 'Monro School (?Thomas Girtin and J. M. W. Turner)'; YCBA Online as 'Near Grindelwald' by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view along the river Schwarze Lütschine, looking towards the Wetterhorn, 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

Between Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald

The view, taken between Lauterbrunnen and Grindelwald, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.18), one of fifty-seven works that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776. It is highly unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, however, and the work was presumably copied either from an on-the-spot drawing made in September 1776 or from one of the tracings the artist was in the habit of producing from his own compositions. Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they were probably large in scale and little more than summary outlines, and that would explain why the Monro School copy is the same size as the watercolour but differs in the distribution of light on the foliage and the snow-capped mountain in the distance, all of which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. 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.

Establishing the division of labour within a Monro School drawing is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing clearly. Although the nature of the subject did not require much detail, Girtin’s hand is apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of greys and blues. If anything, there is more doubt about the quality of the colour washes and Turner’s involvement. As with so many of the Swiss views made for Monro, a crude representation of distance through tonal variation has led writers such as Andrew Wilton and John Gage to put a question mark next to Turner’s input into this work (Wilton, 1980a, p.60; Gage, 1987, p.29). However, I am sure that the limitations in the application of the washes can be more readily explained by the problems of interpretation involved in working from an outline drawing, and that identifying the cognitive errors in the Monro School copies is the best way to establish that Girtin and Turner did not work directly from Cozens’ watercolours.

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).

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