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

Mont Blanc, from the Banks of the Arve, near Sallanches in Savoy

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0455: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Mont Blanc, from the Banks of the Arve, near Sallanches in Savoy, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 23.1 × 37.6 cm, 9 ⅛ × 14 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1958,0712.387).

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)
  • Mont Blanc, from the Banks of the Arve, near Sallanches in Savoy
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
23.1 × 37.6 cm, 9 ⅛ × 14 ¾ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
French View: The Alps; River Scenery

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 176; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £44 2s (stock no.6104); bought by James Garrick, 31 December 1881, £31 10s; ... William George Rawlinson (1840–1928); his sale, Christie’s, 28 June 1912, lot 87; bought by 'Agnew', £21; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.7746); bought by Robert Wylie Lloyd (1868–1958), 8 April 1913, £35 (lent to London, 1922); bequeathed to the Museum, 1958

Exhibition History

Agnew's, 1913, no.85; London, 1922, no.75 as ’Mont Blanc by J. M. W. Turner after J. R. Cozens’; London, 1998b, no.2a as ’J. M. W. Turner after John Robert Cozens’


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.28; British Museum, Collection as by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of Mont Blanc, from the banks of the river Arve, 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

Between Sallanches and Servoz, Mont Blanc in the Distance

The view of Mont Blanc from the river near Sallanches in Savoy was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.5), one of fifty-seven works that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776. It is highly unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, however, and the work was presumably copied either from the on-the-spot drawing made on 27 August 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 may have been 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 watercolour but differs significantly in the distribution of lighter areas of sunlight, snow and cloud, which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. Overlaying images of the two works shows both how close their general outlines are, but also how the Monro School copy includes more of the composition to the right, again indicating that its ultimate source lay elsewhere. 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.

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward, however. Kim Sloan has catalogued this example as being by just Turner and dated it to 1792–93 – that is, significantly earlier than the period of Turner’s collaboration with Girtin at Monro’s house (Sloan, 1998, p.38). However, although what pencil work is visible under the obscuring washes is not obviously by Girtin, and the nature of the subject means outline plays little part in the overall effect, I do not see any reason to think that it was not a joint effort or that it should be dated so much earlier than the mass of Monro School material in the Turner Bequest at Tate Britain. A joint attribution with a question mark against Girtin’s name is therefore my best suggestion for this typical Monro School quandary.

Image Overlay

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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