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

Lake Klöntal, the View Looking West

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0485: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Klöntal, the View Looking West, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.2 × 37.3 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in. Leeds Art Gallery (13.221/53).

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, Leeds City Art Gallery (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Klöntal, the View Looking West
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.2 × 37.3 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in

'Lac de' Klonthalar / In the canton of Glaris' on the back, lower left by Thomas Girtin; '29' top right

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in February 2020


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; ... Mrs Ranshaw; Frederick Meatyard; Agnes Lupton (1874–1950) and Norman Darnton Lupton (1875–1953); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1953

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

This view of the western end of the lake was copied from an untraced composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776 (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.42) and repeated as a small monochrome study (see figure 1). It is very 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, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection. 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. In this case the watercolour has always been attributed to Turner alone, and what little of the pencil drawing that is visible in a photograph is hardly of a quality to suggest with any great certainty that Girtin was also involved in its production. However, the fact that Turner’s watercolour washes predominate does not in itself mean that the work was not a collaborative effort, and a joint attribution with a question mark against Girtin’s name was initially my best suggestion for this typical Monro School quandary. However, a second viewing of the drawing and, in particular, a careful examination of the inscription on the back, which appears to be in Girtin’s hand, has suggested a different, albeit tentative conclusion. Thus, it is Girtin’s contribution that now strikes me as being the more likely, and the addition of watercolour washes, even if they are by Turner, looks rather pedestrian in comparison.

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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