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

Lake Lucerne, Looking down the Bay of Uri

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0501: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-97), Lake Lucerne, Looking down the Bay of Uri, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.6 × 36.7 cm, 9 ¼ × 14 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Lucerne, Looking down the Bay of Uri
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.6 × 36.7 cm, 9 ¼ × 14 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Swiss View; Lake Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2021


Sotheby's, 7 July 2021, lot 55 as 'Joseph Mallord William Turner, probably in collaboration with Thomas Girtin', £151,200

About this Work

This view of Lake Lucerne, looking south down the Bay of Uri to Flüelen, displays many of the characteristic 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 of Lucerne; Looking Southwards down the Lake of Uri from off Brunnen

This scene, one of six Monro School views of Lake Lucerne, 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.33). 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 that Cozens was in the habit of producing from his own sketches. Cozens’ sketches from 1776 have not survived, but they were probably large in scale and little more than summary outlines. 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 on the cliffs to the left and on the Brisenstock and Uri Rotstock mountains to the right, as well as displaying other reflections in the water – all of these would have been matters of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. 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.

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 clearly. Although the nature of the subject did not require detailed work, Girtin’s hand is apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple muted palette. More than forty years later, Turner returned to Brunnen, near the place from which Cozens sketched the view down the Bay of Uri, to complete his own on-the-spot drawing, ultimately producing a colourful vision very different from this almost monochrome view (sold at Sotheby’s, 4 July 2018, lot 206). This is therefore one of only a handful of cases of where Turner replicated from life a view realised initially at second hand for Monro.

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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