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

An Unidentified Lake Scene

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0510: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), An Unidentified Lake Scene, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 34.3 × 50.5 cm, 13 ½ × 19 in. The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (59.55.1284).

Photo courtesy of The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens, Gilbert Davis Collection (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • An Unidentified Lake Scene
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
34.3 × 50.5 cm, 13 ½ × 19 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Unidentified Topographical View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


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; ... Gilbert Davis (1899–1983); bought from him by the Gallery, 1959

Exhibition History

Arts Council, 1955, no.69


The Huntington Online as 'Swiss Lake Scene' by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 07/09/2022)

About this Work

This unidentified lake scene has a number of features in common with the work produced at the house of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) by Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) in the winter months of the years between 1794 and 1797. In particular, the composition of the landscape resembles some of the views made after sketches by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) dating from his 1776 journey through Switzerland, and this is presumably behind its current title, Swiss Lake Scene. It has not been possible to identify the subject, however, and the fact that the watercolour conforms to neither of the standard formats of the Monro School Swiss scenes – that is, on paper measuring about 9 ¼ × 14 in (23.5 × 35.6 cm) or 9 ½ × 7 1/4 in (24 × 18.5 cm) – throws doubt on the Cozens link. Indeed, a closer inspection of the scene suggests something closer to home: the form of the trees in the foreground and a not very Swiss-looking church spire have no parallels in any of the other Alpine views produce at Monro’s house.

The work has always been attributed to Turner alone, and indeed there is no clearly evident pencil work that indicates the involvement of Girtin in that aspect of its production. It is possible that Girtin’s characteristic outlines have been buried under the marginally more highly worked washes of colour that were customary for a Monro School work. However, since everything else about the work, not least its size and subject, suggests an anomalous status, I am inclined to question the attribution of the work to Turner as well. The improvisatory quality of the washes, particularly in the foreground rocks and on the surface of the water, is more characteristic of a more abstract quality in Girtin’s work. I suspect that like another unusually large Monro School drawing, Vallombrosa Abbey (TG0669), this work is solely by Girtin.

An Alpine Lake

A rather more heavily worked up view (see figure 1) of another unidentified lake scene adopts a similar composition that likewise appears to be after an untraced composition by Cozens. The very crude colouring, which is clearly not by Turner, all but hides the pencil work, but though the little that shows through is of a higher standard, there is no clear evidence of Girtin’s involvement in its production either. I suspect, therefore, that the work is a later copy of an untraced Monro School drawing, possibly by a member of Thomas Monro’s family. Another Monro School watercolour of a unidentified lake amongst mountain scenery has a stronger claim to represent an alpine scene, though the exact location has again proved elusive. A source in the work of Cozens in this case appears to have greater credibility, even as the work’s poor quality suggests that neither Turner nor Girtin was involved in its production.

1797 - 1798

Vallombrosa Abbey


by Greg Smith

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