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

The Lake of Thun, near the Village of Spiez

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0463: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797), The Lake of Thun, near the Village of Spiez, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on paper, 22.9 × 36.8 cm, 9 × 14 ½ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Private Collection

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Lake of Thun, near the Village of Spiez
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
22.9 × 36.8 cm, 9 × 14 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Lake Scenery; Swiss View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Sale 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; ... Sir Adrian Boult (1889–1983); Lady Avebury; Dr Henry Alexis Chodak-Gregory (1889–1964); Charles Richard Nairne Routh (d.1976); Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1983, £2,500

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1950, no.27; Agnew’s, 1983, no.68

About this Work

This view of the Lake of Thun 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 Thun, near the Village of Spiez

The lake view was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) (see figure 1; Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.14), one of fifty-seven works that he probably 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 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 the same size as the watercolour but differs in the distribution of light across the landscape, particularly in the areas of snow and in the distant clouds, 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.

The exact division of labour in the Monro School watercolours is rarely straightforward, but in this case such is the poor quality of the application of washes that we can be reasonably sure that Turner was not involved in its production. The pencil work, which is apparent even from a black and white photograph, is a different matter, however, and, though it is impossible to be certain, the economical but varied touch suggests that the work was drawn by Girtin. Given that it would have taken him much less time to copy the outlines of a simple landscape composition than it would have taken Turner to add the colour, it is likely that there were a number of Girtin’s uncoloured drawings in Monro’s possession after the artists’ employment ended, and these may have attracted the attention of one or more of the numerous young professional artists and amateurs who enjoyed the patron’s support and 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).

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.