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Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Henderson

A Beached Vessel in the Inner Harbour at Dover

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0810: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), A Beached Vessel in the Inner Harbour at Dover, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 29.8 × 22.8 cm, 11 ¾ × 9 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • A Beached Vessel in the Inner Harbour at Dover
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN 1794)
29.8 × 22.8 cm, 11 ¾ × 9 in

'Inner Harbour Dover / by JMW Turner R.A. / from Mr carpenters Sale / Keeper of the Prints & Drawings / at the British Museum' (on an old label attached to the mount)

Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2000 and May 2023


William Hookham Carpenter (1792–1866); ... Thos. Agnew & Sons, 1970–75; Spink & Son Ltd, London, 1991; Christie’s, 28 November 2000, lot 162 as 'The Inner Harbour, Dover' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin; bought by a UK private collector, £11,750

Exhibition History

Spink’s, London, 1991, no.1 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin


Singer, Gardiner and Derow, 1993, pp.13–14

About this Work

This view of a fishing vessel beached in the harbour at Dover 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 the two artists were employed across three winters, probably between 1794 and 1797, to copy ‘the outlines or unfinished drawings of’ principally John Robert Cozens (1752–97), but other artists too, including the patron’s neighbour, the amateur John Henderson (1764–1843), who lent his ‘outlines for this purpose’ (Farington, Diary, 30 December 1794). Henderson visited Dover in the autumn of 1794 and the ‘outlines of Shipping & Boats’ he made there, described by the diarist Joseph Farington (1747–1821) as ‘Very ingenious & careful’, provided the basis for a substantial number of copies commissioned by Monro (Farington, Diary, 1 December 1795). As with the copies the artists made after the sketches of Cozens, ‘Girtin drew in outlines and Turner washed in the effects’, with Turner receiving ‘3s. 6d each night’ though ‘Girtin did not say what He had’ (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798).1

Girtin is not known to have visited Dover and all of his views of the town were copied after other artists, including his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). However, whilst Turner travelled to the port in 1793 and executed a series of studio watercolours after his own sketches, the majority of the Dover subjects sold from Monro’s collection, numbering as many as a hundred, were still produced after secondary sources (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 26 June 1833; Christie’s, 1 July 1833). The source for this work has not been traced, but comparisons with the sketches used by the Monro School artists in the production of other Dover views – such as A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover (TG0797), which displays the same fascination with the minutiae of marine labour – suggest that it was an outline by Henderson. The measurements of the watercolour (c.21 × 28 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 in) also conform to the smaller-scale sketches produced after Henderson, such as Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour (TG0808), and this, combined with the employment of his characteristic upright format, points in the same direction.

A Beached Vessel in the Inner Harbour at Dover

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner, but, following the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many such works, this watercolour was listed as by Girtin and Turner when it last appeared on the art market in 2000 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). Turner’s sparing application of a limited palette of blues and greys leaves much of Girtin’s distinctive and inventive pencil work visible, not least in the rigging, which is untouched, allowing us to appreciate Girtin’s contribution to the overall effect. In comparison with more fully worked subjects, such as Shipping in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond (TG0799), the result of Turner’s limited application of colour washes is more akin to an on-the-spot colour sketch than a studio watercolour, and this is in keeping with a view that uncharacteristically does not include any working figures.

Another version of Henderson’s composition is in the collection of the Williamson Art Gallery, Birkenhead (see figure 1). This has been attributed jointly to Girtin and Turner, but, though the pencil work does seem to be by the former, the less extensive colour washes, particularly when compared to the blue and grey palette employed in the present work, are surely not by Turner (Belsey and Spadoni, 2004, pp.112–13). Overlaying images of the two watercolours shows just how close the pencil work is, and it is not out of the question that both works were traced from the same lost Henderson source and that this version was made and partly coloured by Girtin himself. The summary nature of the washes and the fact that they do not conform to the blue–grey range suggest that the artist may have produced the work for his own use, as a possible model for a studio watercolour, and that he was trying out a different range of colours, including white for the cliffs and an orange for the sand, roofs and sails.

1795 - 1796

A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover


1795 - 1796

Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour


1795 - 1796

Shipping in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond


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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