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

Beached Vessels in Dover Harbour, the Castle in the Distance

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0812: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Beached Vessels in Dover Harbour, the Castle in the Distance, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 25.6 × 21.6 cm, 10 ⅛ × 8 ½ in. Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachussets. Gift of the children of Mrs. Thomas W. Lamont (Florence Haskell Corliss, class of 1893) (SC 1953.42).

Photo courtesy of Smith College Museum of Art, Northampton, Massachussets, Gift of the children of Mrs. Thomas W. Lamont {Florence Haskell Corliss, class of 1893 (SC 1953.42) (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
Title
  • Beached Vessels in Dover Harbour, the Castle in the Distance
Date
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
25.6 × 21.6 cm, 10 ⅛ × 8 ½ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Collection
Versions
Beached Vessels in Dover Harbour, the Castle in the Distance (TG0838)
Catalogue Number
TG0812

Provenance

Florence Lamont (Mrs Thomas W. Lamont, née Corliss); presented by her children to the Museum, 1953

Exhibition History

Memphis, 1979, no.8

Bibliography

Museum Website as 'Sea Coast with Dover Castle' by Joseph Mallord William Turner (Accessed 12/09/2022) 

About this Work

This view of beached vessels, with Dover Castle seen beyond, 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 and similarly includes an unconventional composition with an abruptly terminated close-up view of a vessel – suggest that it was an outline drawing by Henderson. The measurements of the watercolour, which conform to the smaller-scale sketches produced by Henderson (c.21 × 28 cm, c.8 ¼ × 11 in), such as Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour (TG0808), combined with the employment of the upright format, which he favoured for his studies of single vessels, also point in the same direction.

A Ship Beached in the Harbour with Dover Castle in the Distance

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 such works as the norm, this watercolour is still listed as solely by Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In fact, the pencil work here is of a particularly high standard and contains numerous inventive touches that clearly identify it as being executed by Girtin himself, and Turner’s economical application of a limited range of blue and grey washes leaves the lines in the figures showing through to particularly good effect. Girtin made an identical copy in pencil of Henderson’s lost drawing (TG0838), and overlaying an image of it with this watercolour indicates that he was the author of the underlying pencil work here. It seems that Girtin was sufficiently taken by the composition to have made a copy for his own future use, though no watercolour seems to have been forthcoming.

Less clear is the status of a smaller version of the composition in the collection of Winchester College (see figure 1), which excludes the beached vessels in the foreground and to the right. Overlaying images of the works shows that otherwise the smaller work reproduces the design almost exactly, suggesting that it might have been traced either from this drawing or from the original source. The work is currently known only from this image and it is not possible to be sure about its attribution to Girtin and Turner, but it does appear to be less confidently executed than the larger watercolour and it may therefore be a later copy by an unknown visitor to Monro’s home who add access either to the Girtin–Turner drawing or its ultimate source.

Image Overlay

1795 - 1796

A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover

TG0797

1795 - 1796

Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour

TG0808

1795 - 1796

Beached Vessels in Dover Harbour, the Castle in the Distance

TG0838

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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