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

An Unidentified Convent, near Vietri sul Mare

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0724: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Convent, near Vietri sul Mare, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 23.6 × 18.6 cm, 9 ¼ × 7 ⅜ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV, 11 (D36488).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Robert Cozens (1752–97), A Convent near Vietri, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 25.4 × 19.1 cm, 10 × 7 ½ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4454).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • An Unidentified Convent, near Vietri sul Mare
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
Dimensions
23.6 × 18.6 cm, 9 ¼ × 7 ⅜ in
Mount Dimensions
36.8 × 48 cm, 14 ½ × 18 ⅞ in
Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Naples and Environs

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0724
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017

Provenance

Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 79 as ‘Twenty-six sketches in Switzerland and Italy, by Turner, in blue and Indian ink, in a scrap-book’; bought by Thomas Griffith for Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £10 10s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Bibliography

Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1232 as 'Palace on hill' by Thomas Girtin; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.60; Turner Online as 'A Convent near Vietri' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 09/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a convent in the hills above the coastal village of Vietri sul Mare is mounted in an album of watercolours that was bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 79). The twenty-six drawings were the outcome of a unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner working together at Monro’s London home at the Adelphi. Here the artists 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 is based on a simple outline drawing inscribed ‘The Convent of – at Vietri – Septr 24’, which is mounted in an album now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (see the source image above). This was almost certainly traced by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) from an on-the-spot sketch he made on a second visit to Italy in 1782 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.272), when the artist accompanied his patron William Beckford (1760–1844) through northern Italy to Naples. The sketch is included in the third of seven sketchbooks that survive from the trip (The Whitworth, Manchester (D.1975.6.13)), and it was presumably traced by Cozens because the books were retained by Beckford. 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 was presumably 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 that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). Despite extensive searches, it has not been possible to identify the large and distinctive building depicted here, and presumably Cozens had much the same problem, leaving the name of the convent as a blank. The building appears again in TG0725.

The album containing this drawing was sold in 1833 as the work of Turner, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for the watercolours, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1232; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes by Turner leave some of the pencil work untouched in order to create highlights, whilst other areas, including the sky and the overhanging tree, are left unfinished. In practice, Girtin did little more than trace the general outlines of the composition and it was left to Turner to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication, though in this case it seems that either he simply ran out of time or he abandoned a composition that was not working. In general, I am inclined to believe that such a falling off of standards in the Monro School subjects resulted from time pressures placed on Girtin and Turner, rather than indicating the intervention of other, anonymous hands in the work. Moreover, the poor quality of a given watercolour, in itself, does not indicate that it departed from the division of labour that the two artists themselves described to Farington in 1798.

1794 - 1797

An Unidentified Convent, near Vietri sul Mare

TG0725

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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