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

Beachy Head, Looking towards Newhaven

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0835: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Beachy Head, Looking towards Newhaven, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 20.3 × 27.5 cm, 8 × 10 ⅞ in. National Galleries of Scotland (D NG 855).

Photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Beachy Head, Looking towards Newhaven
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
20.3 × 27.5 cm, 8 × 10 ⅞ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Sussex View

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and June 2018


Henry Vaughan (1809–99) (lent to London, 1887); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1900

Exhibition History

London, 1887, Black and White Room, no.12; Annual January Turner Exhibition, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1900-


Armstrong, 1902, p.241 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Campbell, 1993, no.4, p.74; Baker, 2006, pp.34–35; Baker, 2011, p.351 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view, looking west from Beachy Head towards Newhaven, one of a small group of watercolours depicting the characteristic chalk cliff scenery of the south coast, 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 the Sussex coast, and, as with the numerous views of the ports in Kent that he produced with Turner, it is safe to assume that he employed secondary sources for the three Monro School watercolours showing scenery near Beachy Head (the others being TG0836 and TG0840). Comparable views near Dover – Shakespeare Cliff, Dover (TG0837) and The Coast, near Dover (TG0834) – were in all probability based on lost outline drawings by Henderson, and, though the evidence linking this watercolour to the amateur’s sketches is not as compelling, he appears to be the most likely candidate as the author of the original source for this image, as he travelled westwards. Indeed, this view of Beachy Head looking towards Newhaven has the same dimensions as the watercolour of the Shakespeare Cliff, and, with their similar use of figures and shipping, they may even have formed a pair.

All of the views of Dover and the south coast sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, which established many of the Monro School subjects as the joint productions of Girtin and Turner, this watercolour is still catalogued as solely by Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23; Baker, 2011, p.351). This is surprising since the pencil work, featuring an unusually rich dark graphite that might even be black chalk, is quite prominent and displays many of Girtin’s characteristic and inventive touches. Unusually for what is primarily a landscape rather than a study of shipping or architecture, Turner’s limited palette of blues and greys is applied very sparingly, allowing the line to play a more prominent role than in comparable views such as The Coast, near Dover. The view Shakespeare Cliff, Dover displays the same laconic application of washes by Turner and, with its comparable pencil work and similar scale, it was possibly produced at the same evening’s session at Monro’s house, with the artists perhaps working on both drawings at the same time.

1795 - 1796

Beachy Head, Looking towards Newhaven


1795 - 1796

A Coastal View with Chalk Cliffs, Probably from near Beachy Head


1795 - 1796

Shakespeare Cliff, Dover


1795 - 1796

The Coast, near 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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