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

Dover: Fishing Boats at Low Tide

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0848: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover: Fishing Boats at Low Tide, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 28.6 × 20.7 cm, 11 ¼ × 8 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)
  • Dover: Fishing Boats at Low Tide
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
28.6 × 20.5 cm, 11 ¼ × 8 ⅛ 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 2014


Arthur Crossland (1879–1962); his sale, Christie’s, 9 March 1956, lot 20 as 'Fishing Boats and Rowing Boats' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by 'Wilder'; an Estate Sale, Sotheby’s, 11 July 1996, lot 21 as 'Fishing Boats on the Shore' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £2,300; ... Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, 2013-14; Shepherd / W&K Galleries, New York; Sotheby’s, New York, 31 January 2024, lot 186 as by Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold

Exhibition History

Guy Peppiatt, London, 2014, no.13 as ’Fishing Boats at Low Tide’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Shepherd / W&K Galleries, New York, 2015, no.21 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of beached fishing boats at low tide 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 subjects by 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 Dover views – such as A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover (TG0797), which displays the same fascination with the minutiae of marine labour and similarly includes a disparate group of vessels randomly deposited by the departing tide – suggest that it was an outline by Henderson. The measurements of the watercolour, which conform to the smaller-scale sketches produced by Henderson (c.21 × 28 cm, c.8 ¼ × 11 in), such as Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour (TG0808), combined with the employment of the upright format, which he favoured for his studies of single vessels, also point in the same direction.

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of such works as the norm, this watercolour was still listed as solely by Turner when it last appeared on the art market (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). However, Turner’s sparing application of a monochrome palette leaves much of Girtin’s distinctive and inventive pencil work visible, not least in the rigging, which is left untouched, allowing us to appreciate Girtin’s contribution to the overall effect of the drawing. In comparison with more fully worked Dover subjects, such as Shipping in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond (TG0799), the result of Turner’s limited application of grey washes is more akin to an on-the-spot colour sketch than a studio watercolour, and this is in keeping with a view that uncharacteristically does not include any working figures.

1795 - 1796

A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover


1795 - 1796

Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour


1795 - 1796

Shipping in Dover Harbour, 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 the Documents section of the Archive (1798 – Item 2).

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