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

The Lake of Geneva, from Divonne

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0451: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Lake of Geneva, from Divonne, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23 × 36.5 cm, 9 × 14 ⅜ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bonhams (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Lake of Geneva, from Divonne
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23 × 36.5 cm, 9 × 14 ⅜ in

'Lake Geneva from Divone in Franche Compte' on the back, by (?) Thomas Girtin

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
French View: The Alps; Lake Scenery

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 'Hixon', £21 11s 6d; ... Herbert Horne (1864–1916) (lent to London, 1916); bought from him by Sir Edward Marsh (1872–1953), May 1904; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.9692), 3 May 1920; bought by Asa Lingard (1869–1956), 4 May 1920 (lent to London, 1922); his sale, Sotheby's, 8 March 1944, lot 38 as 'A Landscape' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons, £105; ... Bonhams, 6 February 2007, no.65 as 'Monro School, Lake of Geneva from Divone in France Compte', unsold; Bonhams, 18 September 2007, lot 16, unsold

Exhibition History

London, 1916, no.71 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Agnew’s, 1921, no.128; London, 1922, no.69 as ’Copy by J. M. W. Turner of J. R. Cozens’; Agnew’s, 1945, no.41, £250


Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.28; Wilton, 1980a, p.39

About this Work

This view of the Lake of Geneva 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 Lake of Geneva from the Canton of Berne

The view shows the Lake of Geneva from Divonne in France and it was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.2), one of the fifty-seven works that he appears to have executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776. It is highly unlikely that Monro had access to Cozens’ finished watercolours, however, and the work was presumably copied either from the on-the-spot drawing he made on 18 August 1776 or from one of the tracings that 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 this Monro School copy is roughly the same size as the watercolour but differs significantly in the distribution of lighter and darker areas as this 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.

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward. This work was exhibited with the Cozens watercolour it is related to in 1916 and 1922, when it was attributed to Turner on both occasions. At its sale in 2007, however, Andrew Wilton suggested that the outlines were by Girtin, and to my eye the watercolour is rather crudely applied and if anything a question mark therefore hangs over Turner’s contribution. It has not been possible to plot any meaningful changes in style across the three or four years that the artists worked for Monro, and all these works are therefore dated to 1794–97.

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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