John Robert Cozens, Lake Nemi, a watercolour

Italy, AD 1777-78

This lake in the Alban Hills, south of Rome, is formed by the crater of an extinct volcano; together with the surrounding wooded landscape, it was a favourite area for artists and tourists attracted by its spectacular scenery and by its associations with classical history and poetry.

Cozens (1752-97) drew it in 1777, then used his sketch as the basis for several watercolours which concentrate on the creation of a soft, hazy atmosphere and a languid, melancholy mood. Thomas Jones, another English artist working in Italy at the same time, depicted Nemi in much stronger, more vivid colours.

Cozens had travelled to Italy through Switzerland in 1776 with the collector and connoisseur Richard Payne Knight (1750-1824). Much of Payne Knight's collection entered The British Museum, including a series of Cozens's evocative lightly-tinted views of the Alpine rivers and mountains. Cozens remained in Italy for two years, developing his style and producing many carefully composed and highly finished watercolours, like this view of Nemi, which proved popular with other collectors on his return to London.

J.R. Cozens was acclaimed by John Constable as 'the greatest genius that ever touched landscape'. His work, Constable declared, was 'all poetry'. He succumbed to mental illness around the age of forty and was looked after by Dr Thomas Munro. The doctor collected his work which was much admired and copied by J.M.W. Turner and Thomas Girtin.

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More information


L. Stainton, British landscape watercolours (London, The British Museum Press, 1985)

K. Sloan, Alexander and John Robert Coze (New Haven and London, Yale University Press, 1986)

M. Clarke and N. Penny (eds), The arrogant connoisseur: Rich, exh. cat. (Whitworth Art Gallery, 1982)


Height: 360.000 mm
Width: 522.000 mm

Museum number

PD 1958-7-12-332


Bequeathed by R.W. Lloyd


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