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

Sargans Castle

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0489: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Sargans Castle, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.1 × 37.4 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ¾ in. Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields (13.441).

Photo courtesy of Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields (Public Domain)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Sargans Castle
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.1 × 37.4 cm, 9 ½ × 14 ¾ in

‘Near Grindelwald 44’ on the back

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Castle Ruins; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Gallery Website


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'; his sale, Christie's, 15 March 1848, lot 88 as 'The Castle Gate of Sargans' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Christie's, 31 March 1852, lot 17 as 'Castle and Gate of Sageans, near the Grisons' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; ... William C. Ward; bought from him by the John Herron Art Institute, 1913

Exhibition History

Indianapolis, 1955, no.54; Indianapolis, 1980, pp.28–29


Hauptman, 1991, p.72 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Krause, 1997, pp.79–81 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin; Venning, 2003, pp.33–34; Moyle, 2016, p.132;  IMA Collection Online as 'South Gate of Sargans' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the castle at Sargans 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

The South Gate of Sargans

This view looking up from the town gateway to the castle at Sargans in Switzerland was 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.43). 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 throughout the composition, which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. In this case, the broad areas of light on the slope leading up to the castle and on the building itself dilute the drama of the setting 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.

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 detailed work, 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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