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

On the Coast South of Genoa, near Lerici

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0675: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), On the Coast South of Genoa, near Lerici, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 14.9 × 24.9 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ¾ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV, 26 (D36504).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: (?) Alexander Cozens (1717–86), On the Coast South of Genoa, near Lerici, graphite and varnish on laid paper, 13.7 × 25.1 cm, 5 ⅜ × 9 ⅞ in. Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (B1977.14.4599).

Photo courtesy of Yale Center for British Art, Paul Mellon Collection (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) Alexander Cozens (1717-1788)
  • On the Coast South of Genoa, near Lerici
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
14.9 × 24.9 cm, 5 ⅞ × 9 ¾ in
Mount Dimensions
36.8 × 48 cm, 14 ½ × 18 ⅞ in

'Coast of Genoa towards Lerici' on the mount, lower right, in a later hand (presumably transcribing Thomas Girtin's no longer visible inscription)

Part of
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Italian View: Northern Coastal Scenes

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 79 as ‘Twenty-six sketches in Switzerland and Italy, by Turner, in blue and Indian ink, in a scrap-book’; bought by Thomas Griffith for Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £10 10s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1233 as '"Coast of Genoa towards Lerici"' by Thomas Girtin; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.37; Turner Online as 'On the Italian Coast' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 08/09/2022)

About this Work

This coastal view, taken near Lerici, south of Genoa, is mounted in an album of watercolours that was bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 79). The twenty-six drawings were the outcome of a unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner working together at Monro’s London home at the Adelphi. Here the artists 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

The view is based on a simple outline drawing inscribed ‘Coast of Genoa towards Lerici’ that is mounted in an album now at the Yale Center for British Art, New Haven (see the source image above). Monro’s posthumous sale, in 1833, contained only twenty or so sketches by ‘Cozens’, so the patron must have borrowed the majority of the ‘outlines or unfinished drawings’ copied by Girtin and Turner. In this case, the source of the watercolour was almost certainly purchased at the sale of ‘Mr COZENS’ in July 1794 by Sir George Beaumont (1753–1827).2 As Kim Sloan has noted, Beaumont mounted ‘215 “tracings” or drawings on oiled paper’ in an album that he presumably lent to Monro, and it was from this collection that the two young artists produced more than fifty watercolours (Sloan and Joyner, 1993, pp.89–91). Little or no distinction was made at the 1794 auction between John Robert Cozens (1752–97) and his father, Alexander Cozens (1717–86), and there is no conclusive evidence to say that all of the sketches in the Yale album are by the son. Furthermore, as Sloan has also pointed out, the source for this work appears to be amongst a group of drawings that Alexander made on a coastal voyage on his way either to or from Italy in 1746, and there is no suggestion that John made such a journey, though it is always possible that he traced his father’s outlines for his own future use (Sloan, 1986, pp.127–28).

The album containing this drawing was sold in 1833 as the work of Turner, but the cataloguer of the Turner Bequest, Alexander Finberg, thought that Girtin alone was responsible for watercolours such as this, whilst more recently Andrew Wilton has established their joint authorship (Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1233; Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Identifying the division of labour within Monro School drawings is considerably helped, as here, when the colour washes leave something of the pencil work showing through. Neither element of the production process – pencil outline or the addition of colour washes – is of the highest quality, however, though there is no reason to suspect that the work departed from the practice described by the artists themselves to Farington in 1798. Overlaying images of the Monro School watercolour and the Cozens sketch suggests that Girtin did little more than trace the general outlines of the simple composition; it was therefore left to Turner to obscure the essentially mechanical task of replication, though his economical use of a limited palette of blues and greys creates something more akin to a sketch than ‘finished drawings’.

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).
  2. 2 A full record of the sale is available in the Documents section of the Archive (1794 – Item 1)

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