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Works (?) Thomas Girtin after (?) John Robert Cozens

London, from Greenwich Hill

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0862: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), London, from Greenwich Hill, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original mount, 30.2 × 47.3 cm, 11 ⅞ × 18 ⅝ in. Victoria and Albert Museum, London (P.28-1934).

Photo courtesy of Victoria & Albert Museum, London (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • London, from Greenwich Hill
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an original mount
30.2 × 47.3 cm, 11 ⅞ × 18 ⅝ in
Object Type
Studio Watercolour; Work from a Known Source: Contemporary British
Subject Terms
London and Environs; The River Thames

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2017


George Richard Savage Nassau (1756–1823); his posthumous sale, Christie’s, 27 March 1824, lot 308 as by Thomas Girtin; bought by Archdeacon Charles Parr Burney (1785–1864), £6 6s; then by descent to Rosetta d’Arblay Wood (née Burney) (1814–1910); then by descent to Edith Mary Burke Powell (Lady Powell, née Wood) (1848–1934); bequeathed to the Museum, 1934


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.205 as by Thomas Girtin; Lambourne and Hamilton, 1980, p.151 as 'Monro School, probably by Girtin'

About this Work

London from Greenwich Hill

This copy of a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1), showing the famous view from Greenwich Hill along the river Thames to St Paul’s in the distance, was attributed by Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak to Thomas Girtin working alone at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.205). Unlike the large number of copies of Cozens’ compositions that Girtin produced at Monro’s home together with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), the work appears to have been based on a finished studio watercolour rather than an outline drawing, and Turner was not involved in its production. Certainly, the washes of colour do not resemble those that Turner customarily added to Girtin’s outlines and, indeed, the work also lacks the subtle and sometimes quite expressive pencil work that Girtin copied from his sources and around which his collaborator carefully wove washes of colour. There are no fewer than seven versions by Cozens of the composition that are known today; therefore, if the work is a copy of a studio watercolour rather than a sketch or outline, it is not possible to say precisely which provided the source. All are larger in scale and none employ quite the palette of blues and greys typically seen in a Monro School copy. Indeed, it is difficult to see quite why Monro would have wanted a copy of such a well-known scene, which might, in any case, have been taken anew on a local excursion. Moreover, Greenwich was a recent addition to Cozens’ catalogue of subjects, with all of his watercolours of British scenes coming from the last few years of his active life as an artist, and two of the versions of this composition are dated as recently as 1791 and 1792, so the collector would have had the opportunity to buy directly from the artist himself. This was an unlikely commission for Monro, therefore, but the subject no doubt was a highly attractive one for other patrons. The domes of the nearby Greenwich Hospital and the distant St Paul’s, linked by the curving vessel-lined river, might have recalled Cozens’ earlier images of Rome with the river Tiber and St Peter’s forming a similar conjunction, all of which pointed to the flattering conclusion that London was a new and dominant imperial capital based on marine power.

Although the attribution of the work to Girtin is certainly tenable, an alternative author is worthy of at least some consideration, for it should be remembered that Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained a watercolour by Edward Dayes (1763–1804), Girtin’s master, that was described as a ‘view of the Thames from Greenwich park’ (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lot 165). The fact that the ‘DRAWING’ was ‘FRAMED AND GLAZED’ means that it was a more substantial affair than the slighter ‘sketches’ that made up the mass of the artist’s works sold from Monro’s collection, and one cannot help but wonder whether the fact that this view from Greenwich has faded is significant. Being framed for display on a wall would increase the chance of a watercolour fading due to excessive exposure to light and, together with the details of the 1833 sale, this increases the possibility that the copy was produced by Dayes. Certainly, the stylistic evidence linking the watercolour to Girtin is not watertight, and, given that his work was closely based on his master’s manner early in his career, an attribution to Dayes is not out of the question, though confirmation of this arguably requires further evidence.

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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