For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after John Robert Cozens

Tell’s Chapel, Lake Lucerne, with the Fronalpstock Beyond

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0480: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Tell's Chapel, Lake Lucerne, with the Fronalpstock Beyond, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 24.6 × 35.5 cm, 9 ⅝ × 14 in. British Museum, London (1915,0313.83).

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)
  • Tell’s Chapel, Lake Lucerne, with the Fronalpstock Beyond
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
24.6 × 35.5 cm, 9 ⅝ × 14 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Swiss View

Tell’s Chapel, Lake Lucerne, with the Fronalpstock Beyond (TG0481)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and January 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 174 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £16 16s (stock no.6102), for the Revd Charles John Sale (1817–96), plus 10% commission; his widow, Mary Sale (1824–1915); bequeathed to the Museum, 1915


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.33

About this Work

This view of Lake Lucerne, with Tell’s Chapel on the shoreline in the centre of the composition, 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

Schwyz, Lake of Lucerne, with Tell's Chapel

This scene, one of six views of Lake Lucerne, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.37) that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776. 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 on the vegetation on the banks of the lake and on the distant mountain, the Fronalpstock, as well as featuring another set of reflections in the water, all of which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing.

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. This example is unusual in that the landscape has powerful historical associations, albeit that they are played down in both the Monro School copy and its Cozens source. The lakeside chapel marks the site, according to legend, of where William Tell leapt from the boat of his captors and escaped to fulfil his destiny as the founder of the Swiss Confederacy in the fourteenth century.

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 clearly. Although the nature of the subject did not require detailed work, Girtin’s hand is clearly apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple monochrome palette. A second, more coloured version of the composition also seems to have been a collaboration between the two young artists (TG0481).

1794 - 1797

Tell’s Chapel, Lake Lucerne, with the Fronalpstock Beyond


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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.