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

Lake Klöntal

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0484: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Klöntal, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.5 × 37.1 cm, 9 ¼ × 14 ⅝ in. Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Providence, RI, anonymous gift (82.196.10).

Photo courtesy of Rhode Island School of Design Museum, Anonymous gift (82.196.10) (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Klöntal
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.5 × 37.1 cm, 9 ¼ × 14 ⅝ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


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; ... Revd. W. Morgan; said wrongly to have been in a sale at Christie's (23 November 1937, lot 13) as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Guy Daniel Harvey-Samuel (1887–1960); Fine Art Society, London, 1960; bought by an anonymous collector; presented to the Museum, 1982

Exhibition History

Fine Art Society, 1960 as ’Lake Scene’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of Lake Klöntal 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

Lake Klöntal, from the East

The view of the Alpine lake was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776 (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.41). It is highly unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, and the work was presumably copied either from an on-the-spot drawing made in September 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 were probably 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 Cozens watercolour but differs radically in the distribution of light throughout the composition, but particularly on the distant mountains, all of which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. In this case, we can be reasonably certain that both drawings were based on a lost prototype, rather than the Monro School composition being a simple copy of the watercolour, because the former features more of the mountain to the left, giving it a more panoramic feel. Thus, whilst it is possible to imagine the copying process omitting a foreground, as was the case here, the mechanical nature of Girtin’s practice in this project was anathema to the invention of new material, which would have been required here if the Cozens watercolour were the source.

The Monro School drawings are commonly inscribed on the back, and this generally provides enough information for a suitable title for the work. In this case, however, the title comes from the Cozens watercolour, which is inscribed ‘Lake of Klonthaloner from the east’. Cozens’ inscriptions are generally accurate, but there is some doubt here as the body of water seems to be more like a river and it does not accord with views of the west end of the lake or with the other Klöntal Monro School subject (TG0485).

Establishing the division of labour within a Monro School drawing is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave much of the pencil work showing through. Although the nature of the subject did not require detailed work, Girtin’s hand is apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of greys and blues.

1794 - 1797

Lake Klöntal, the View Looking West


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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