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Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after John Henderson

A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0797: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Henderson (1764–1843), A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: 1794 / J WHATMAN), 46.9 × 58.7 cm, 18 ½ × 23 ⅛ in. Tate, Turner Bequest CCCLXXVIII, 4 (D36619).

Photo courtesy of Tate (All Rights Reserved)

Artist's source: John Henderson (1764–1843), Fishing Boat Aground, graphite on paper, 46 × 56.8 cm, 18 ⅛ × 22 ⅜ in. British Museum, London (1935,0219.1).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: 1794 / J WHATMAN)
46.9 × 58.7 cm, 18 ½ × 23 ⅛ in
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 January 2018


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 26 June 1833, lot 111 as 'Shipping in Dover Harbour in Indian ink (9)' by 'Turner'; bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), £5 5s; accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest, 1856

Exhibition History

National Gallery London, 1920, no catalogue; Palma, 2002, no.1


Finberg, 1909, vol.2, p.1241 as 'Fishing boat aground; coast of Kent' by Thomas Girtin; MacColl, 1920, p.136; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, p.44; Turner Online as 'Dover: A Boat on the Shore near Shakespeare's Cliff' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin (Accessed 12/09/2022)

About this Work

This view of a beached fishing vessel near Shakespeare Cliff, west of the port of Dover, was bought by Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) at the posthumous sale of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), one of as many as a hundred views of the town and its environs listed in the catalogue (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 26 June 1833; Christie’s, 1 July 1833). The watercolour was produced at Monro’s home, where Turner and Girtin 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 from Girtin and Turner 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 were still produced after secondary sources. In this case, the watercolour was copied from a large outline by Henderson that was bequeathed by his son to the British Museum (see source image TG0797) along with other views of Dover. Indeed, overlaying images of the watercolour and its source suggests that Girtin actually traced Henderson’s outline, so close is the congruence of forms. The method employed by Girtin is not documented, but it probably involved the use of a strong light source to render the outline translucent so that it could then be traced onto another piece of paper laid on a piece of glass. It was then Turner’s rather more onerous task to add washes of blue and grey to produce a commodity somewhere between an on-the-spot sketch and a finished watercolour, or as close as could be achieved in the few night-time hours available to him at Monro’s house. It is to Girtin’s credit that he was able to transcend a simple mechanical task and render his lines with at least some of the invention and individual character displayed in his on-the-spot sketches.

Henderson’s numerous Dover views are essentially variations on a set of themes, with the same vessels, buildings, views and naval operations returning in different combinations. In this case, the setting underneath Shakespeare Cliff recurs in Shakespeare Cliff, Dover (TG0837). The drawings are further united by the same meticulous attention to detail, which suggests that the amateur employed a mechanical aid such as a camera obscura to fix the forms, meaning that it was the task of the young professional artists to bring a precise record of coastal labours to life.

Image Overlay

1795 - 1796

A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover


1795 - 1796

Shakespeare Cliff, Dover


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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