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

Dover: Boats Anchored in the Harbour

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG1468: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover: Boats Anchored in the Harbour, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 29 × 23 cm, 11 ⅜ × 9 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Dover: Boats Anchored in the Harbour
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
29 × 23 cm, 11 ⅜ × 9 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2005


Sotheby's, 22 March 2005, lot 94 as 'A Boat Anchored in a Harbour' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £8,400

About this Work

This view of boats anchored in the harbour at Dover 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 other artists, 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 secondary sources (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 port views – such as Dover Harbour: Small Boats by the Quay (TG0803), which displays the same fascination with the minutiae of marine labour and similarly includes a disparate group of vessels moored in a picturesque harbour setting – suggest that it was an outline drawing by Henderson.

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, this work was still listed as solely by Turner when it last appeared on the art market in 2005 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This is particularly surprising given that the very sparing addition of just a few tones of grey wash has left Girtin’s characteristic pencil work clearly visible across the sheet, but particularly in the rigging of the vessels and the quayside buildings. In comparison with others of the Monro School Dover subjects, such as Dover Harbour: The Stern of a Large Ship, and Smaller Vessels (TG1473), where Turner carefully worked the drawing despite only using a limited palette of blues and greys, here the artist focused on touching in just a few areas. Monro wished for ‘finished drawings’ when he commissioned copies from Turner and Girtin after the outlines of Cozens (Farington, Diary, 12 November 1798), but here the results of their labour have more in common with an on-the-spot sketch, which prioritises the outline drawing with a few monochrome washes added to indicate the general distribution of light.

graphite and watercolour on paper, unknown measurements. Private Collection.

A second version of the composition, featuring an additional vessel to the right, is known only from an old black and white image (see figure 1). There is just enough visible pencil work to suggest that Girtin was involved in its production, though the colour washes do not appear to be the work of Turner. Might this be a case of Girtin being solely responsible for a Monro School work?

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Small Boats by the Quay


1795 - 1796

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


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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