Valley of Oberhasli, Berne, Switzerland

WAG 8169


Cozens progressed from making topographical views of the landscape towards a more Romantic vision in his later works. He was influenced by the writings of Edmund Burke (1729 - 1797). In his book 'A Philosophical Inquiry Into The Origin Of Our Ideas Of The Sublime and Beautiful', published in 1757, Burke used the term 'the sublime' as a way of describing the sense of awe and of God's presence that people experience when confronted with overwhelming natural phenomena such as mountains. Later writers, including Cozens's father, Alexander Cozens, came to associate mountains with 'surprise, terror, superstition, silence, melancholy, power and strength.' The composition of this scene gives the viewer the feeling that they are standing on a ledge, overlooking the vallery below. It invites us to take in the view and witness the sublime and the power of nature. Cozens first sketched this scene in 1776 when travelling with the art connoisseur Richard Payne Knight (1750 - 1823). It was popular with Cozens supporters and he made several later versions including this one. Two others are at the Victoria and Albert Museum and the Brtish Museum, both in London. The use of pure transparent watercolour and the monochromatic blue colour scheme are both typical of Cozens style.