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

The Lac de Joux

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0785: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Lac de Joux, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 22 × 36.5 cm, 8 ⅝ × 14 ⅜ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F05200-0037 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Lac de Joux
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
22 × 36.5 cm, 8 ⅝ × 14 ⅜ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Hills and Mountains; Lake Scenery; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


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 178 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Agnew', £31 10s; Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.6106); bought by Walter Holland, 11 September 1891; ... Lady Patricia Ramsay; her posthumous sale, Christie's, 4 June 1974, lot 177 as 'Houses by a Lake in a Hilly Landscape'; bought by 'Fry', 750 gns; the Fry Gallery, London; ... Sotheby's, 9 November 1995, lot 58 as 'Cottages by a Lake in a Mountainous Landscape' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £2,760

About this Work

This view south west along the length of the Lac de Joux 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 Alpine view was almost certainly copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), who sketched the Lac de Joux from a similar angle on 5 September 1776, though from further back. The resulting watercolour, which he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776 (see figure 1), contains many of the elements of this composition; however, the differences suggest that the Monro School subject was worked from another, closely related sketch (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.913). The sketches that Cozens made during his 1776 tour through the Alpine regions of France and Switzerland have not survived, but they were probably in the form of simple, though large-scale, outlines, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection.

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward. This is particularly the case when, as here, the work is only known from a black and white photograph. At this distance all that can be said with any confidence is that there is nothing to suggest that this is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin. Another version of the composition in the Fogg Art Museum (see figure 2) appears to be much less accomplished and may well be a copy of Girtin and Turner’s watercolour made at Monro’s home by any of a large number of young professional artists and amateurs who enjoyed his support or friendship.

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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