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

Boats Anchored in Dover Harbour

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0822: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Boats Anchored in Dover Harbour, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on laid paper, 22.9 × 28.6 cm, 9 × 11 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of a Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Boats Anchored in Dover Harbour
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on laid paper
22.9 × 28.6 cm, 9 × 11 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Boats Anchored in Dover Harbour (TG0821)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Witt Library Photograph


Fine Art Society, London, 1948, as 'Boats at Dover' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of boats anchored in the harbour at Dover, one of two versions of the same composition (the other being TG0821), 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 specific 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 Dover Harbour: The Stern of a Large Ship, and Smaller Vessels (TG1473), which shows the same buildings from closer to and displays a similar fascination with the minutiae of marine labour – suggest that it was an outline drawing by Henderson. The amateur’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, and it is a measure of their skill that both Turner and Girtin were able to create from this unpromising source a unified body of work that includes sufficient variety to maintain interest levels.

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, prior to the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, few of the Monro School Dover subjects were described as being the joint productions of Girtin and Turner, this despite the artists’ own description of their practice at the patron’s house as they related to Farington in 1798 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This watercolour has not been seen in public since 1948 and is therefore only known from a poor-quality black and white photograph. But, even from this image, quite a lot of Girtin’s distinctive pencil work can be seen and there is no reason to believe that the view is not a typical example of the artists’ collaborative work for Monro. The existence of a second version of the composition, almost certainly the work of just Girtin (TG0821), does nothing to undermine the dual authorship of this watercolour. Overlaying images of the two works illustrates a series of small changes in the disposition of the parts, which means that the two sets of outlines were not traced from the same source, though in every other respect they are identical.

1795 - 1796

Boats Anchored in Dover Harbour


1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: The Stern of a Large Ship, and Smaller Vessels


1795 - 1796

Boats Anchored in Dover Harbour


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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