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

Lake Lucerne, the View from near Brunnen

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0478: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Lucerne, the View from near Brunnen, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.1 × 36.8 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ½ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1975.4.1418).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art Yale Center for British Art

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
Title
  • Lake Lucerne, the View from near Brunnen
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
24.1 × 36.8 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ½ in
Inscription

'Lucerne Lake' on the back

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

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0478
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website

Provenance

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 M. S. Belk as 'The Edge of a Lake' by Joseph Mallord William Turner ... Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1963; bought from them by Paul Mellon (1907–99); presented to the Center, 1975

Bibliography

YCBA Online 'Dr. Thomas Monro ... The Edge of a Lake ... formerly attributed to Joseph Mallord William Turner' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of Lake Lucerne from near Brunnen, on the north-east shore, 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 of Lucerne: The View across the Lake, from near Brunnen

This scene, one of three views of Lake Lucerne, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–1797) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.34) that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776. 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 on the banks and on the distant mountain, as well as displaying other reflections in the water, 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.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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