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

A View of Nice, with Mont Alban Beyond

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0680: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), A View of Nice, with Mont Alban Beyond, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 15.2 × 27.9 cm, 6 × 11 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Callaghans of Shrewsbury (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), Nice and Montalban, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 15.6 × 26 cm, 6 ⅛ × 10 ¼ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4560).

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 (?) Alexander Cozens (1717-1788)
  • A View of Nice, with Mont Alban Beyond
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
15.2 × 27.9 cm, 6 × 11 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; French View: The South

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Frank Dillon (1823-1909) (lent to London, 1886); ... M. S. Rau Antiques, 2014; Callaghans of Shrewsbury, 2018/19 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

Exhibition History

London, 1886, no.158 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of Nice on the French Riviera, with Mont Alban looming beyond, was copied from a drawing probably made by Alexander Cozens (1717–86) (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 tracing inscribed ‘Nice & Montalban’, was almost certainly purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ 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). Neither the 1794 auction nor Monro’s posthumous sale distinguished between Alexander Cozens and his son John Robert Cozens (1752–97), and, perhaps not surprisingly, it is generally assumed that the source for Monro School drawings such as this was provided by the latter, more famous artist. However, as Sloan has again pointed out, there is no conclusive evidence to say that all of the sketches in the Yale album are by the son. As with examples such as Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia (TG0677), the source for this work appears to be amongst a group of drawings that Alexander made on a coastal voyage on his way either to or from Italy in 1746 (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28). There is no indication that John made a journey that would have enabled him to take views from aboard a vessel, though it is of course still possible that he was the executant of the source drawing here, albeit that he traced or copied it from an on-the-spot sketch by his father.

The bulk of the Monro School copies sold at the patron’s posthumous sale were attributed to Turner alone, and, in spite of the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, Girtin is rarely given equal credit for more carefully worked examples such as this one (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is not entirely surprising, given that the watercolour has been quite heavily worked by Turner with a full palette of colours, and this, as far as I can tell from an online image, has effaced traces of Girtin’s pencil work. The question then is, if nothing of Girtin’s work remains visible, does it follow that this watercolour departs from the general practice of the artists at Monro’s house (as they described to Farington in 1798)? Although the point can never be proved, I suspect that Girtin was still involved in its production, albeit at the most basic level, tracing the outlines from the Cozens drawing; it was Turner’s more onerous task to obscure the essentially mechanical practice of replication and produce something that approximates more to a finished work.

1794 - 1797

Vernazza, on the Coast near La Spezia


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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