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Works Thomas Girtin after (?) John Henderson

A Boat-Builder’s Yard, Possibly on the River Medway

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0832: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), A Boat-Builder's Yard, Possibly on the River Medway, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 21 × 29.3 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ½ in. The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (758).

Photo courtesy of The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • A Boat-Builder’s Yard, Possibly on the River Medway
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
21 × 29.3 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

A Boat-Builder’s Yard, Possibly on the River Medway (TG0832b)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001


Sir Charles Walston (Waldstein) (1856–1927) and Lady Florence Walston; presented to the Museum, 1914


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.205 as 'A Boat-Builder's Yard' by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of a boat-builder’s yard, one of two almost identical versions of the picturesque scene (the other being TG0832b), appears to have been made at the home of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833). Girtin is not known to have visited either the river Medway or the Channel coast and his marine scenes and views of boats under construction or repair were executed after other artists, including his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and the amateur artist John Henderson (1764–1843). Henderson lent his ‘outlines of Shipping & Boats’ to Monro so that they might be copied by the young artists the latter patronised (Farington, Diary, 1 December 1795). The outlines Henderson made in Dover provided the basis for a large number of Monro School views of the port and its environs, but there is some evidence that this work, together with a group of ship-building scenes, was executed after sketches that were actually taken on the river Medway to the north. Although it is possible that a sketch by Dayes provided the model for this drawing too, the existence of another version of the composition by Henderson himself (see TG0832b figure 1) suggests that his outlines provided the source for this work and the other boat-building scenes (TG0832a and TG0833). Certainly, the work displays Henderson’s customary fascination with the minutiae of marine labour, including details such as the launching ramp to the right and a hoisting tackle to the left.

Unlike the other version of this composition, which was most likely made in collaboration with Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at Monro’s home, there is no evidence either that this work was ever in Monro’s collection or that Turner was involved in its production. The pencil work is clearly by Girtin, but he too seems to have been responsible for the colour washes, which are too summary and unmodulated for Turner, and Thomas Girtin (1874–1960) and David Loshak consequently included this watercolour in their catalogue as one of a handful of Monro School subjects that were ‘wholly the work of Girtin’ (Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.205). It appears, therefore, that in addition to producing an outline for Turner to colour, Girtin was sufficiently taken by Henderson’s composition to make a version for himself. Overlaying images of the two works, which are identical in size, shows just how close the compositions are, and it is possible that Girtin traced at least one of his outlines from the original sketch. However, there are some subtle differences between the drawings, with the foreground figures, for instance, being moved apart so that their labours are more carefully separated, suggesting that Girtin made improvements even as he copied the composition, perhaps with a future studio watercolour in mind.

Image Overlay

1795 - 1796

A Boat-Builder’s Yard, Possibly on the River Medway


1795 - 1796

A Boat-Builder’s Yard, Possibly on the River Medway


1795 - 1796

A Boat-Builder’s Shed, Possibly on the River Medway


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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