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

Dartford High Street

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0844: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after John Henderson (1764–1843), Dartford High Street, 1795–96, graphite, pen and ink and watercolour on laid paper, 42.8 × 55 cm, 16 ⅞ × 21 ⅝ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Guy Peppiatt Fine Art Ltd. (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Dartford High Street
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite, pen and ink and watercolour on laid paper
42.8 × 55 cm, 16 ⅞ × 21 ⅝ in

'by Turner / View of the Street at Dartford Kent' on the reverse of the mount

Object Type
Studio Watercolour
Subject Terms
Dover and Kent; Street Scene

Dartford High Street (TG0843)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2014


Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, probably Christie's, 2 July 1833, lot 88 as 'View in the Street of Dartford, Indian ink' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Tiffin', £2 2s; William Esdaile (1758–1837); his posthumous sale, Christie's, 21 March 1838, lot 828 as 'View of Dartford' by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought, £3 10s; Christie's, 16 May 1885, lot 97 as 'Dartford in Kent' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, 55 gns; Frederick Startridge Ellis (1830–1901); Christie's, 13 December 1918, lot 47 as 'Dartford, Kent' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'W. Sabin', £110; Sabin Galleries, Ltd, London; Basil Dighton of Savile Row, London, 1923; private collection, USA; Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, 2014

Exhibition History

Guy Peppiatt, London, 2014, no.11 as by Thomas Girtin


Thornbury, 1862, vol.1, p.98

About this Work

It is unlikely that Girtin visited Dartford in Kent, and this lively scene showing the High Street was instead produced from a sketch made by his early patron John Henderson (1764–1843) (see source image TG0843), albeit at one further remove. The amateur artist inscribed and dated his on-the-spot drawing ‘Dartford, July 26 / 94’, and from this sketch Girtin made a pen and ink copy (TG0843), which presumably preceded this larger studio watercolour. The pen and ink study remained in the family until it was bequeathed to the British Museum in 1878, but there is no evidence that the watercolour was ever owned by Henderson. Indeed, it seems to have been commissioned by Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), at whose house the young Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) collaborated to produce several hundred copies of the outlines of professional artists, as well as amateurs such as Henderson. Monro’s posthumous sale thus included a ‘View in the Street of Dartford, Indian ink’, which was listed as being by Turner (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 1 July 1833, lot 88). All of the Girtin–Turner copies after Henderson, including as many as a hundred views of Dover, Kent and the south coast, were attributed to Turner at the sale, but there is no doubt that this work was made by Girtin alone. Thus, although it has been sold as by Girtin and Turner together and twice again as by Turner, both the pencil work (which almost exactly replicates the pen and ink copy of Henderson’s original sketch) and the application of a limited range of greys and blues are clearly by Girtin working independently. This is confirmed by the early testimony of Turner’s first biographer, Walter Thornbury (1828–76), who recalled seeing ‘a view of the chief street at Dartford (1794), copied by Girtin after an existing sketch by Mr. Henderson’ (Thornbury, 1862, vol.1, p.98).

The view of Dartford stands out amongst the large group of copies after Henderson’s sketches that Girtin made for Monro for other significant reasons, beyond Turner not being involved in its production. Overlaying images of Henderson’s original sketch, Girtin’s outline copy and the final watercolour shows that the second and third of these were far from straightforward copies and that at each stage Girtin added to and improved his patron’s composition. For instance, Henderson’s sketch only includes the slightest outlines of figures and it was left to Girtin to invest a considerable amount of effort into adding groups of figures and horse-borne traffic when typically he had simply replicated his patron’s perfunctory staffage. Overlaying the images also illustrates how, in addition to adding in much architectural detail that is only hinted at in the original sketch, Girtin successively compressed the composition to create a more concentrated set upon which the figures play out their contrasting roles. It is 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 with comparable sets of figures in the road and on the pavements. In other words, I take this watercolour to be more than a simple reworking of an amateur’s drawing of a location that Girtin had not visited; the extra level of invention he lavished on it was part of a broader attempt to develop a distinctive iconography of the city and to add the modern street scene to his repertoire of subjects.

1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1795 - 1796

Dartford High Street


1795 - 1796

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


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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