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

A View of Geneva, from Cologny

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0453: (?) 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, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 24.2 × 38 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

(?) 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
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
24.2 × 38 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Swiss View

A View of Geneva, from Cologny (TG0452)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2006


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 'Hixon', £21 11s 6d; ... Sotheby's, 23 November 2006, lot 225 as 'A View of Geneva' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £12,000

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 a 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.

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward, however. In this case the watercolour was sold at auction in 2006 as by Turner alone, and too little of the pencil drawing is visible to suggest with any great certainty that Girtin was also involved in its production. Girtin alone was responsible for another version of this composition (TG0452), and it may be that Turner was the sole author of this work too, but the fact that his watercolour washes predominate does not in itself mean that the drawing was not a collaborative effort. A joint attribution with a question mark against Girtin’s name is my best suggestion for this typical Monro School quandary, therefore.

1794 - 1797

The Lake of Geneva, from Divonne


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).

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