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

Lake Walen, Looking East

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0493: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Lake Walen, Looking East, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.1 × 37.1 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1915,0313.82).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Lake Walen, Looking East
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.1 × 37.1 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ⅝ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


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 179 as 'Lake of Wallenstadt' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £31 10s (stock no.6107); for the Revd Charles John Sale (1817–96), plus 10% commission, 18 May 1881; his widow, Mary Sale (1824–1915); bequeathed to the Museum, 1915


British Museum, Collection as 'Lake of Wallenstadt' (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of Lake Walen, taken from Weesen, on its western extremity, 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 Walen

This view looking down the lake (also known as Walensee and Lake Walenstadt), with the Leistchamm to the right, is 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.44). 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 Cozens’ watercolour but differs radically in the distribution of light throughout the composition. Trees and buildings that are dark in the Cozens watercolour are here highlighted, with their reflections standing out boldly in the lake, whilst the structure of the mountains and their progression into the distance are altered completely by the very different use of light and shade. Much of the setting’s drama is diluted as a result, and it is difficult to believe that artists as ambitious as Turner and Girtin would have settled for a relatively bland view if they were not working from an outline that conveyed little of the effect that Cozens was able to create in his watercolour for Payne Knight. The absence of the figures and boat in the Monro School copy also suggests that it was not this watercolour to which they had access.

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 much detail, Girtin’s hand is apparent under Turner’s economical use of a monochrome palette.

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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