For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after John Robert Cozens

Interlaken, on the Road between the Lake of Thun and Unterseen

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0464: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Interlaken, on the Road between the Lake of Thun and Unterseen, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 24.1 × 37.1 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Interlaken, on the Road between the Lake of Thun and Unterseen
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
24.1 × 37.1 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in

'Near Unterseven'; 'Canton of Bern' on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2003


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; ... Christie’s, 5 June 2003, lot 32i as 'Sunlight on a River Valley' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin, £4,541

About this Work

This view looking up the Lauterbrunnen Valley, with the peaks of the Jungfrau in the distance, 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

The view of the sunlit valley repeats a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.15), 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 produced for Payne Knight, however, and it has been suggested in the online catalogue of the British Museum collection that this work was instead copied from a more colourful and subtly painted version now in its collection (see figure 2), which includes a light effect comparable to the Monro School subject. Closer inspection shows that the two watercolours by Cozens actually have much more in common with each other, and that the lighting in the Monro School work, apart from one area in the middle ground, is quite different from that in the coloured version. Moreover, if Girtin and Turner had copied a watercolour by Cozens – rather than, as I suspect, an outline drawing – they would have been able to represent the complex set of distances depicted by the older artist. As it is, the four carefully graded recessions represented by different tones of blue and grey by Cozens are rendered in the Monro subject as just two and the mountainous distance is consequently badly affected. Such a crude representation of distance through tonal variation presumably prompted the cataloguer of the sale of this work in 2003 to suggest that the washes were not applied by Turner, though the pencil work ‘would appear to be by Girtin’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 5 June 2003, lot 32i). I certainly agree with the second part of the statement, but I suspect that the limitations in the application of the washes can be more readily explained by the problems of interpretation involved in working from an outline drawing, and, moreover, that identifying the cognitive errors in the Monro School copies is the best way to establish that Girtin and Turner did not work directly from Cozens’ watercolours.

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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.