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Works Thomas Girtin after John Henderson

Dartford High Street

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0843: Thomas Girtin (1775-1802), after John Henderson (1764–1843), Dartford High Street, 1795–96, graphite and pen and ink on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN), 42.4 × 54.9 cm, 16 ⅝ × 21 ⅝ in. British Museum, London (1878,1228.12).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

Artist's source: John Henderson (1764–1843), Dartford High Street, Kent, 1794, graphite on paper, 37 × 54.3 cm, 14 ⁹⁄₁₆ × 21 ⅜ in. British Museum, London (1878,1228.167).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Dartford High Street
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and pen and ink on wove paper (watermark: J WHATMAN)
42.4 × 54.9 cm, 16 ⅝ × 21 ⅝ in
Object Type
Outline Drawing; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Dover and Kent; Street Scene

Dartford High Street (TG0844)
Catalogue Number
Girtin & Loshak Number
113 as 'Dartford, Kent'; 'c. 1795'
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


John Henderson (1764–1843); then by descent to John Henderson II (1797–1878) (lent to London, 1875); bequeathed to the Museum, 1878

Exhibition History

London, 1875, no.132 as 'A Pen and Ink Drawing of Dartford, Kent ... After a pencil sketch by the late Mr. Henderson'


Binyon, 1898–1907, no.101 as 'After John Henderson, Senior'

About this Work

This highly detailed pen and ink drawing of Dartford High Street was copied by Girtin from an on-the-spot pencil sketch executed by one of his most important early patrons, the amateur John Henderson (1764–1843) (see the source image above). In turn, it was used as the basis for a watercolour that appears to have been produced for Henderson’s neighbour and close associate, Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833) (TG0844). It is important to emphasise, however, that the copy was made quite independently from the Monro School subjects that Girtin made in collaboration with his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851). This drawing was executed for Henderson himself, therefore, and it remained with the family until it was bequeathed to the British Museum in 1878 along with a significant group of other copies by Girtin that have the same dimensions, employ a similar firm pen outline over a slighter pencil sketch, and are all after the work of other artists. Copies such as Rome: The Temple of Saturn, Called The Temple of Concord (TG0893) and The Temple of Augustus at Pula (TG0896) provide the context for this view, rather than the dozens of Dover views that Girtin and Turner worked up from Henderson’s drawings at Monro’s house.

Working from the elaborate prints of professional artists, Girtin was content to copy their figures verbatim. However, whilst Henderson, perhaps with the aid of a camera obscura, was capable of producing an accurate and detailed study of the High Street, the amateur’s figures are particularly feeble and Girtin had no choice but to add his own complex and varied cast. Overlaying images of the two drawings illustrates just how closely Girtin followed his patron’s sketch, but this did not amount to tracing the original since the procedure of superimposing the works also illustrates how much the composition has been compressed; moreover, in addition to the invention of figures, numerous small details have been filled in, ranging from the tiles on the roofs to the precise fenestration. The result is that an on-the-spot sketch, inscribed and dated by Henderson ‘Dartford, July 26 / 94’, is transformed into a commodity more akin to a presentation drawing, and something that might easily be converted into a full-blown studio watercolour. The counter view, that this drawing was actually copied from the watercolour, can be tested by again overlaying images of the two works. This shows that although the watercolour (the larger work) has exactly the same staffage, the process of compression begun in the copy has intensified, so that in terms of the proportions of the three views, Henderson’s original and Girtin’s pen and ink study have more in common. All of this suggests that the watercolour was the last to be produced.

In terms of both the subject (a busy high street) and the composition (an oblique view taken from the pavement), the Dartford drawing has much in common with a Dover street scene that also appears to have been copied from a Henderson sketch, Dover: Snargate Street, Looking West (TG0842). It is also worth recalling that Girtin was probably engaged at this time in the first versions of his major London street scene St Paul’s Cathedral, from St Martin’s-le-Grand (TG1396), which repeats the composition of the curving, building-lined street shown here and includes a comparable set of figures in the road and on the pavements.

1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1796 - 1797

Rome: The Temple of Saturn, Called the Temple of Concord


1797 - 1798

The Temple of Augustus at Pula in Istria


1795 - 1796

Dover: Snargate Street, Looking West


1795 - 1796

St Paul’s Cathedral, from St Martin’s-le-Grand


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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