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

Between Chamonix and Martigny, the Aiguille Verte

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0457: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Between Chamonix and Martigny, the Aiguille Verte, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 22.9 × 36.8 cm, 9 × 14 ⅝ in. Birmingham Museums & Art Gallery (1953P405).

Photo courtesy of Birmingham Museums Trust (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • Between Chamonix and Martigny, the Aiguille Verte
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
22.9 × 36.8 cm, 9 × 14 ⅝ in
Inscription

'Between Chamouni and Martigny' on the back, by Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
French View: The Alps; Hills and Mountains

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0457
Description Source(s)
Viewed in June 2024

Provenance

Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 8 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; ... Herbert Horne (1864–1916) (Armstrong, 1902); bought from him by Sir Edward Marsh (1872–1953), May 1904 (lent to London, 1916); Asa Lingard (1869–1956) (lent to London, 1922); his sale, Sotheby's, 8 March 1944, lot 40; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £205; James Leslie Wright (1862–1954); then by descent to Hope Keith (Mrs Cecil Keith, née Wright) (1902–83); presented to the Museum, 1970

Exhibition History

London, 1916, no.69; Agnew’s, 1921, no.123 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; London, 1922, no.65 as a ’Copy by J. M. W. Turner of J. R. Cozens’; London, 1949, no.222; Aosta, 2000, no.16

Bibliography

Armstrong, 1902, p.20, p.245 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.28; Rose, 1980, p.57 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the distinctive mountain known as the Aiguille Verte, or Green Needle, near Chamonix in the French Alps, 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

Between Chamonix and Martigny, the Aiguille Verte

The view of the Aiguille Verte was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.8), 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 the on-the-spot drawing made on 30 August 1776 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 in the provision of highlighted areas in the vegetation and the distribution of shade in the distant snow, both of which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. Overlaying images of the two works shows that, although their general outlines are close, changes have been made to the line of the hill to the right and also the Monro School copy includes more of the composition to the left and right, again indicating that its ultimate source lay elsewhere. 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. This work was exhibited with the Cozens watercolour it is related to in 1916 and again in 1922, when it was attributed to Turner alone. This is understandable given the relatively dense washes of colour added by Turner, but there is enough evident pencil work to suggest that Girtin too was involved in its production, and that the work saw the close collaboration of the two artists.

Image Overlay

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).

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