For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Robert Cozens

A View of Geneva, from Cologny

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0452: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A View of Geneva, from Cologny, 1794–97, watercolour on wove paper, 19.7 × 44 cm, 7 ¾ × 17 ⅜ in. British Museum, London (1912,0513.15).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • A View of Geneva, from Cologny
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Watercolour on wove paper
19.7 × 44 cm, 7 ¾ × 17 ⅜ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Panoramic Format; Swiss View

A View of Geneva, from Cologny (TG0453)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Richard Johnson; his sale, J. C. Platt, London, 26 April 1912, lot 889 as 'Italian Town and Bay'; bought by Leggatt Brothers, London; bought by the Museum, 1912

Exhibition History

London, 1912b, no.314 as ’View on an Italian or Swiss lake; after J. R. Cozens’ by Thomas Girtin



Oppé, 1921, p.134; British Museum, Collection as by Thomas Girtin (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of Geneva from Cologny 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 view, which has not hitherto been identified with any great certainty, shows the city of Geneva from Cologny, looking south west. The panoramic composition was probably copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), who travelled through Switzerland in the summer of 1776 and then executed a group of fifty-seven watercolours, probably for his patron Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824). Another view of Geneva was sketched on 18 August, providing the basis for another Monro School watercolour (TG0451), and Cozens is by far the most likely source for this work too. It is highly unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, however, and the work was presumably instead copied either from an on-the-spot sketch or from one of the tracings that the artist was in the habit of producing from his own compositions. 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.

View of Geneva, from Cologny

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward, however. This work was bought by the British Museum as by Girtin and, unlike in another version of the same subject (TG0453), the colour washes added to the pencil drawing do not appear to be in Turner’s hand. The watercolour was almost certainly made at Monro’s house, however, and it may have been one of three works ‘by Girtin, after Cozens’ that were sold at the patron’s posthumous sale (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 2 July 1833, lot 35). Another version of the composition is in the collection of Manchester Art Gallery (see figure 1), and Andrew Wilton has suggested that it was produced by John Henderson (1764–1843), presumably copying Girtin’s watercolour rather than working from a Cozens outline (Wilton, 1984a, pp.21–22). However, the recent opportunity to study the work at first hand has revealed a rather better work than expected and arguably one that would have been beyond Henderson’s limited capabilities. With little pencil work evident it is not possible to confirm definitively Girtin’s involvement as a draughtsman, but there are passages of attractive pattern making in the middle ground and a surprisingly effective sense of space throughout which is enough to suggest that Girtin alone might have been responsible for reworking a typically panoramic subject in a more limited palette than that employed for the other versions of the subject (TG0452 and TG0453).

1794 - 1797

A View of Geneva, from Cologny


1794 - 1797

A View of Geneva, from Cologny


1794 - 1797

A View of Geneva, from Cologny


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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.