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

Lake Lucerne, the View from near Altdorf

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0479: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Lucerne, the View from near Altdorf, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.9 × 38.1 cm, 9 ⅜ × 15 in. Gallery Oldham (9.88/21).

Photo courtesy of Gallery Oldham (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Lucerne, the View from near Altdorf
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.9 × 38.1 cm, 9 ⅜ × 15 in

'Lake Lucerne / JM Turner RA' on the back, by (?) Charles Sackville Bale; 'Lake Lucerne near Altorf' on the back, by (?) Charles Sackville Bale

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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


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; ... Charles Sackville Bale (1791–1880); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 14 May 1881, lot 173 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Agnew', £27 6s; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.6101); bought by Charles E. Lees (1840-94), 11 November 1881, £34 (lent to Oldham, 1883); presented to the Gallery, 1888

Exhibition History

Oldham, 1883, no.266; Lugano, 1998, no.262 as ’Joseph Mallord William Turner (?)’


Coombs, 1993, p.23 as 'Attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner'

About this Work

This view of Lake Lucerne from near Altdorf, on the southern arm of the lake, 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

This scene, one of six Monro School views of Lake Lucerne, was presumably copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), as in the cases of TG0478 and TG0480; the model, however, has not been found. It is highly unlikely, in any case, that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, and the work was presumably copied instead from either 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 copies are roughly the same size as the Cozens watercolours but differ radically in the distribution of light on the rocks and the vegetation, and in the reflections on the water in the lake views, all of which would have been a matter 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 palette of greys and blues, and, unlike earlier writers, I am minded to list the work as a good example of the two artists collaborating together (Coombs, 1993, p.23).

1794 - 1797

Lake Lucerne, the View from near Brunnen


1794 - 1797

Tell’s Chapel, Lake Lucerne, with the Fronalpstock Beyond


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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