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.
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