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

Dover Castle from the Sea

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0809: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover Castle from the Sea, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 19 × 26 cm, 7 ½ × 10 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Dover Castle from the Sea
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper (possibly with a discoloured fixative)
19 × 26 cm, 7 ½ × 10 ¼ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Dover and Kent; Coasts and Shipping

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Auction Catalogue


Sotheby's, 15 March 1984, lot 53 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Martyn Gregory Ltd, 1989

Exhibition History

Martyn Gregory, London, 1989, no.112 as ’Dover: jetty and distant castle’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of vessels in a choppy sea at Dover, with the castle shown beyond, 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 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, or Shipping in Dover Harbour (TG0799), which also shows the castle – suggest that it was an outline by Henderson. The same combination of jetty, vessels and castle feature in two other Monro School works, Dover Harbour, with the Castle on the Hill (TG0811) and Vessels in the Harbour at Dover, with the Castle Beyond (TG0815), though in this case some effort is also made to introduce a more varied effect. Unusually for the port scenes, a choppy sea is matched to a busy sky with the wind tugging at a flag and billowing a sail of the smaller of the vessels.

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but following the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984 the joint authorship of such works has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case the middle ground – the area devoted to the jetty and the vessels – is heavily worked and, together with the sky and the sea, it betrays scant evidence of Girtin’s involvement. However, Turner’s more sparing application of washes in the distance and on the rigging of the vessels leaves enough of Girtin’s distinctive and inventive pencil work visible to substantiate his contribution to the drawing.

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Small Boats by the Quay


1795 - 1796

Shipping in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond


1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour, with the Castle on the Hill


1795 - 1796

Vessels in the Harbour at Dover, with the Castle Beyond


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 full in the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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