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Works Thomas Girtin after John Henderson

Dover Harbour

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0802: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802), after John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover Harbour, 1795–96, graphite on wove paper, 43.5 × 57.8 cm, 17 ⅛ × 22 ¾ in. British Museum, London (1935,0219.6).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0)

Artist's source: John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover Harbour, graphite on wove paper, 39.8 × 54.6 cm, 15 ⅝ × 21 ½ in. British Museum, London (1935,0219.5).

Photo courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) after John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Dover Harbour
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite on wove paper
43.5 × 57.8 cm, 17 ⅛ × 22 ¾ in
Object Type
Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2018


Charles Francis Bell (1871–1966); presented to the Museum, 1935


Girtin and Loshak, 1954, p.205 as by Thomas Girtin; Wilton, 1984a, pp.19–20 as by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This general view of Dover harbour looking west was copied by Girtin from an on-the-spot sketch made by the amateur artist and collector John Henderson (1764–1843) (see the source image above). It was produced at the house of Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833), who employed Girtin and his contemporary Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851) to copy ‘the outlines or unfinished drawings of’ principally John Robert Cozens (1752–97), but other artists too, including the patron’s neighbour, Henderson, who is said to have 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). The copy of Henderson’s sketch produced jointly by the two artists, A General View of Dover Harbour (TG0801), typically saw Girtin tracing the outlines in graphite with Turner washing in the effects with a limited palette.

It is possible that Girtin’s pencil copy of the same composition by Henderson was produced as the first stage in the creation of just such a watercolour copy but that it was abandoned and recopied to form A General View of Dover Harbour. However, there is evidence that the detailed pencil drawing was conceived by Girtin separately from the production of a Monro School watercolour. Overlaying an image of the Henderson sketch, firstly with the watercolour copy (TG0801) and then with the Girtin pencil drawing (TG0802), makes clear that whilst the pencil work in the watercolour was traced from the Henderson source, this drawing was copied freehand with various details added. Thus Girtin’s slightly smaller drawing actually includes more of the building to the right, and an extra rowing boat with men fishing has been added to the foreground. It is impossible to prove definitively, but I suspect that Girtin’s drawing was conceived independently as a model for a composition that might be developed in the future as a full-scale studio watercolour, and it therefore included improvements on Henderson’s sketch. The drawing is still essentially a careful copy of Henderson’s highly detailed study, therefore, but Girtin softened the hard contours of the amateur’s sketch and, with the help of additional details such as the rowing boat, began to create a more coherent spatial organisation for the scene so that the individual elements inhabit a more convincing position within the whole. There is still a way to go in terms of creating a convincing model for the depiction of a crowded riverbank, but one can already see the seeds of an idea that would come to full fruition in Girtin’s depictions of the river Seine in Paris in 1802 (such as TG1865).

Image Overlay

1795 - 1796

A General View of Dover Harbour, from the East


1795 - 1796

A General View of Dover Harbour, from the East


1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour



The Ile de la Cité, with the Louvre and the Pont Neuf in the Distance, Taken from the Pont Marie: Pencil Study for Plate Three of ‘Picturesque Views in Paris’


by Greg Smith

Place depicted

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