For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Henderson

A Ship under Repair in Dover Harbour

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0806: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), A Ship under Repair in Dover Harbour, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 22.6 × 28.3 cm, 8 ⅞ × 11 ⅛ in. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (NGI.2407).

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • A Ship under Repair in Dover Harbour
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
22.6 × 28.3 cm, 8 ⅞ × 11 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 2015


Henry Vaughan (1809–99); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1900


Armstrong, 1902, p.249 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Wilton, 1984a, p.21 as 'Old Dover Harbour' by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner; Dawson, 1988, pp.54–55 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Wilton, 2005, p.8; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.40–41 as 'The Waterfront of Old Dover Harbour' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of Dover harbour, with a passenger boat at anchor and another ship under repair, 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 views – such as Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying (TG0798), which displays the same fascination with the minutiae of marine labour and employs a similar composition with a ship cut to the right – suggest that it was an outline by Henderson, albeit rather smaller in scale. Henderson’s attention to detail has made it possible for the boat on the right to be identified as probably a ‘gaff-rigged Dutch boyer’ with netting added for the safety of passengers, whilst the vessel being overhauled may be a small frigate or corvette with a gun-port (Dawson, 1988, pp.54–55).

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of this work, it is still listed as by Turner in recent catalogues of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland (Wilton, 1984a, p.21; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.40–41). This is understandable where Turner’s watercolour washes dominate, but in this instance Girtin’s varied and inventive pencil work is evident throughout the sheet, though particularly on the passenger boat and in the picturesque harbour-side buildings beyond. Indeed, the work might be cited as the classic example of the way in which Turner’s economical and subtle use of a few washes of blue and grey can showcase Girtin’s pencil work, allowing it to contribute to the drawing’s overall effect, and this is enhanced in this case by the work’s fine condition.

A Fishing Boat in Dover Harbour

A smaller version of the composition, lacking the working figures to the left but including a rowing boat on the water, has been attributed to Girtin and Turner by Andrew Wilton (see figure 1) (Wilton, 2005, p.8). The washes of colour are much less subtle, however, and, crucially, they do not allow the pencil work to show up with such good effect as in the watercolour at the National Gallery of Ireland. Working only from a black and white image makes it difficult to be sure, but I suspect that this is an anonymous copy made at Monro’s house from the significantly more accomplished drawing by Girtin and Turner, and I cannot think why the two artists would have made a second version of the same composition, omitting the characteristic working figures and the detail of the sails drying on the passenger boat.

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying


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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.