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

Beached Fishing Vessels, Dover Harbour

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0819: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Beached Fishing Vessels, Dover Harbour, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 23.1 × 34.3 cm, 9 ⅛ × 13 ½ in. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (NGI.2404).

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)
  • Beached Fishing Vessels, Dover Harbour
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
23.1 × 34.3 cm, 9 ⅛ × 13 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Beached Fishing Vessels in the Harbour at Dover (TG0820)
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; Dawson, 1988, pp.56–57 as 'Old Dover Harbour, Kent' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Merwe, 2008, p.18; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.52–53 as 'Old Dover Harbour' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of beached fishing boats in the harbour at Dover, one of two versions of the composition (the other being TG0820), 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 secondary sources, 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 the work of other artists (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 port views – such as Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying (TG0798), which displays the same fascination with the minutiae of marine labour and similarly includes fishing boats with their sails drying after returning from a night’s work – suggest that it was an outline drawing by Henderson. The attention to detail seen in the watercolour is such that the marine historian Pieter van der Merwe has been able to identify the fishing boats in the foreground as ‘Brighton hogboats or “hoggies”’, one of which has lowered its mast into a crutch for stability, whilst in the distance there are ‘Deal luggers’, which were used either for fishing or as pilot boats (information provided in a letter to the National Gallery of Ireland, 2011). And it was presumably Henderson who noted details such as the group of chatting fishermen with their clothes drying in the wind, suspended from the masts in place of the sails, which brings the Monro School watercolour to life.

Dover: Shipping off a Jetty

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the fact that the joint authorship of the Monro School subjects has become increasingly the norm following the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, this work is still listed as solely by Turner in the most recent catalogues of the collection of the National Gallery of Ireland (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.52–53). Neither the pencil work nor the economical addition of a limited palette of greys and blues to the outlines is of the highest quality, but there is no reason to suspect that this is not the joint work of Girtin and Turner, and whatever shortcomings there are can be put down to the time constraints the artists worked under at Monro’s house. In fact, there are also some fine passages, including the shadows in the boat to the left and the convivial group of figures to the right. Moreover, Turner’s sparing application of his washes creates some lovely patterns in the shadows and allows Girtin’s pencil work to establish surprisingly characterful studies in the figures. In the smaller, reworked version of the composition (TG0820), the same figures are shown hard at work.

Dover: A Cutter off a Jetty, Fishing Boats Beached Nearby

Turner, working from one of the sketches he made at Dover in 1793 (Tate Britain, Turner Bequest (XVI D)), produced a similar view of shipping off the jetty (see figure 1). Without the existence of Turner’s on-the-spot sketch, we might be tempted to assume that this view too was made after an outline by Henderson. However, the lack of evident pencil work, combined with the professional artist’s concentration on the effect of a windy day at the expense of Henderson’s customary concern with the theme of marine labour, points to a different commodity from the more sketch-like sheets produced at Monro’s home. Another view by Turner alone, showing a cutter sailing off the jetty in a stiff breeze, can similarly be discounted as a Monro School copy of a Henderson shipping subject (see figure 2). Henderson simply did not have the skills to depict a vessel in motion, and the carefully articulated sky and sea, captured with a full palette, again suggest that this work too was made by Turner after one of his own sketches.

1795 - 1796

Beached Fishing Vessels in the Harbour at Dover


1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying


1795 - 1796

Beached Fishing Vessels in the Harbour at 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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