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

Dover: Beached Boats, with the Castle Beyond

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG1471: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover: Beached Boats, with the Castle Beyond, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 21 × 29 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅜ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F05905-0039 (CC BY-NC 4.0)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Dover: Beached Boats, with the Castle Beyond
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
21 × 29 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅜ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Dover Castle, Seen from the Beach (TG0263)
Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sir John Charles Robinson (1824–1913); his posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 24 February 1914, lot 49 as 'Dover Casle' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Ward', £8 5s; Arthur Acland Allen (1868–1939); his sale, Sotheby's, 4 April 1935, lot 120 as 'Dover Castle' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Bisgood', £17; J. Anderson, Jnr; L. Bentley; his sale, Sotheby's, 18 July 1974, lot 125 as 'Dover Castle, Kent'; bought by 'Fry', £450; the Fry Gallery, London; Sir John Clermont Witt (1907–82); his widow, Lady Margaret Witt (1910–84); her posthumous sale, Sotheby's, 17 November 1988, lot 35 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £7,150; Sotheby's, 14 July 1994, lot 71 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold; Martyn Gregory Ltd

Exhibition History

Martyn Gregory, London, 1995, no.104 as ’Dover: Beached Boats and the Castle Beyond’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner


Hartley, 1984, pp.67–68

About this Work

This view of Dover Castle with a dilapidated boathouse on the beach below, one of three versions of the composition (the others being TG0263 and TG0263 figure 1), displays some 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 port and the adjacent coastline were copied after secondary sources, including his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). However, whilst Turner travelled to the town 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 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 scenes – such as Shipping in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond (TG0799), which displays a similar fascination with the life of the fishing community, with a view of the castle beyond – 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. In this case, the castle is typically given less prominence than a humble row of buildings, which in their picturesque state of decay mirror the motley collection of small boats scattered in a confused manner across the beach. Such disorder represents the other side of Dover’s maritime economy, small scale and makeshift, in contrast to the scenes of highly organised labour seen in other views of the castle, such as Vessels Anchored in Dover Harbour (TG0813).

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the fact that the joint authorship of the Monro School subjects has become increasingly the norm following the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23), this work was listed as solely by Turner when it last appeared at auction in 1994. The watercolour is only known to me from a black and white photograph, but even though what can be seen of the pencil work could conceivably be by Girtin, the application of the monochrome washes is very weak and surely cannot be the work of Turner. The drawing differs in both proportion and in significant details to both the second version of the composition, almost certainly the work of just Girtin (TG0263), and another drawing which has a more plausible claim to being a joint work of Turner and Girtin (see TG0263 figure 1), and I am therefore inclined to believe that this watercolour is neither an example of their collaboration nor an anonymous copy of one of the other versions. All of which leaves us with two options, either that this is a realisation of the lost Henderson source material by an unknown artist, or might it even be by Henderson himself and therefore represent a different type of source material to the outline drawings that the young Girtin and Turner commonly worked from?

Image Overlay

1795 - 1796

Dover Castle, Seen from the Beach


1795 - 1796

Shipping in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond


1795 - 1796

Vessels Anchored in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond


1795 - 1796

Dover Castle, Seen from the Beach


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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