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

An Alpine Scene, near Sallanches

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0856: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Alpine Scene, near Sallanches, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 24.1 × 36.8 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅜ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • An Alpine Scene, near Sallanches
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
24.1 × 36.8 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅜ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
French View: The Alps; Hills and Mountains

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Witt Library Photograph


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; ... Squire Gallery, London, 1935; Fine Art Society, London, 1946

About this Work

This view from above the river Arve, near Sallanches in the Savoy region of France, 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

Near Sallanches, Savoy

The view looking towards the twin peak of the Tête du Colonney was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.6), 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 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 may have been large in scale and little more than summary outlines, and that would explain why the Monro School copy is roughly the same size as the watercolour but differs significantly in the provision of highlighted areas in the vegetation and of snow in the distance, which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. Overlaying images of the two works shows that the Monro School copy, although it follows the same general outlines, differs extensively in the smaller details and there is no hint, as in so many other cases, of an element of tracing being involved. 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. This is particularly the case when, as here, the work is only known from an old black and white photograph. At first sight there is nothing to suggest that this is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin; however, the colour washes appear to be crude in character and there must be a possibility that the work was produced by one of the many others who frequented Monro’s house, and it is even possible that the drawing was copied after an untraced work by the two artists.

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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