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

Waterside Buildings beneath a Sheer Cliff, near Chur

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0488: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752–97), Waterside Buildings beneath a Sheer Cliff, near Chur, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount, 23.9 × 18.4 cm, 9 ⅜ × 7 ¼ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXIV, 7 (D36484).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Robert Cozens (1752-1797)
  • Waterside Buildings beneath a Sheer Cliff, near Chur
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper, on an early mount
23.9 × 18.4 cm, 9 ⅜ × 7 ¼ in
Mount Dimensions
36.8 × 48 cm, 14 ½ × 18 ⅞ in

‘In the County of Sargans near Coire’ on the mount, lower left, in a later hand (presumably transcribing Thomas Girtin's no longer visible inscription)

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

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 'In the County of Sargans, near Coire' by Thomas Girtin; Bell and Girtin, 1935, p.34; Wilton, 1984a, p.18; Turner Online as 'Buildings near a Lake beneath a Sheer Cliff; a Mountain Beyond' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 06/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of waterside buildings precariously sited under a cliff near Chur, in the mountainous region of the Grisons, now known as Graubünden, 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) (Exhibitions: 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

The title of the work comes from an inscription that is probably in Girtin’s own handwriting, and that he presumably copied from the drawing on which the work is based. Although it has not been traced, the source is very likely to have been a sketch by John Robert Cozens (1752–97), who was in the area of Chur, also known as Coire, in September 1776, and whose drawing of nearby Sargans Castle provided the basis for another Monro School subject (TG0489). Cozens’ sketch was probably in the form of a simple, though large-scale, outline drawing, which would have needed careful interpretation to create the ‘finished drawings’ that Monro required for his collection. 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. Those that were mounted by Monro in one of his albums, as here, are noticeably smaller, forming a distinct group.

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 through. Although the nature of the subject did not require much detail, Girtin’s hand is apparent under Turner’s economical use of a simple palette of greys and blues.

1794 - 1797

Sargans Castle


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.