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

The Reichenbach Falls, the Eighth View

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0474: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752–97), The Reichenbach Falls, the Eighth View, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 24.9 × 18.3 cm, 9 ¾ × 7 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV, 4 (D36481).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • The Reichenbach Falls, the Eighth View
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
24.9 × 18.3 cm, 9 ¾ × 7 ¼ in
Mount Dimensions
36.8 × 48 cm, 14 ½ × 18 ⅞ in

‘Riquenbac’ on the mount, lower right, in a later hand (presumably transcribing Thomas Girtin's no longer visible inscription)

Part of
Object Type
Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Swiss View; Waterfall Scenery

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in November 2017


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 28 June 1833, lot 79 as 'Twenty-six sketches in Switzerland and Italy, by Turner, in blue and Indian ink, in a scrap-book'; bought by Thomas Griffith for Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £10 10s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1231 as 'Riquenbach' by Thomas Girtin; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.31; Gage, 1969, p.25; Wilton, 1984a, p.18; Turner Online as 'Part of the Fall of the Reichenbach' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of the famous falls of the Reichenbach is mounted in an album of watercolours that was bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (Exhibitons: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 79). The twenty-six drawings were the outcome of a unique collaboration between Girtin and Turner working together at Monro’s London home at the Adelphi. Here the artists 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

Eighth View on the Reichenbach

This scene, one of seven Monro School views of the Reichenbach Falls, was copied from a composition by John Robert Cozens (1752–97) that he probably executed for Richard Payne Knight (1751–1824) in 1776 (see figure 1) (Bell and Girtin, 1935, no.25). 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 little more than summary outlines, and that would explain why, though the Monro School copy is roughly the same size as the watercolour, it differs radically in the distribution of light on the rocks and the vegetation, all of which would have been a matter of interpretation for an artist working from a simple drawing. In this case Turner, following Girtin’s lead, misread the composition to a startling degree, so that the water is shown falling in a series of steps, escaping left and right, whereas in the Cozens source it drops straight down between two sheer rock faces. 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. None, however, demonstrate so clearly the principle that identifying the cognitive errors in the Monro School copies is the clearest way to establish that Girtin and Turner did not work directly from Cozens’ watercolours but used his frequently misleading outlines.

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 apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of greys and blues. Girtin’s employment at Monro’s house may have been a mechanical chore, but in the longer term it provided a repertoire of compositions that equipped him to depict sublime scenery such as The Ogwen Falls (TG1330), whilst it prepared Turner for his first trip to the Continent, where in 1802 he was able to sketch similar views of the Reichenbach Falls for himself.

1798 - 1799

The Ogwen Falls


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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