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

Dover Harbour: A Boat under Repair

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0826: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover Harbour: A Boat under Repair, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 21 × 29 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅜ 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 Harbour: A Boat under Repair
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

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2005


Christie's, 5 June 2003, lot 35 as 'A Boatbuilder's Yard, Dover' by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin; Christie's, 9 June 2005, lot 32, £12,000; Guy Peppiatt Fine Art, Ltd, 2017

Exhibition History

Guy Peppiatt, London, 2017, no.15 as ’A Boatbuilder’s Yard, Dover’ by Joseph Mallord William Turner and Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view of a boat under repair 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 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 specific 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: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying (TG0798), which displays a similar fascination with the minutiae of marine labour – 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 levels. The motif of a boat under repair recurs amongst the Dover Monro School subjects, including Dover Harbour: A Ship Being Overhauled (TG0796) and A Ship Drawn Up on a Beach Being Careened (TG0818), and should not be confused, as has been the case with this work in the past, with the activities of the boat-builder’s yard.

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were listed as being by Turner working alone, and this generally remained the case until the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, since when the joint attribution of the Monro School works to Turner and Girtin has increasingly become the norm (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The division of labour is all the easier to establish when, as here, Turner’s sparing use of a monochrome wash leaves extensive areas of the paper clear to act as highlights, so that Girtin’s distinctive pencil work is visible in many areas, particularly in the buildings in the middle ground and the figures on the vessel. The joint attribution of the work to Turner and Girtin was confirmed by Wilton at its most recent sale in 2003.

A Maritime Scene, Known as 'On the Thames'

A second version of the scene, considerably extended to the left so as to form a more panoramic composition, is known as On the Thames (see figure 1), though there is no evidence to suggest that it does not show a scene in Dover as well. There is no indication that either Girtin or Turner were involved in its production, and, given that the view is so much more extensive, it may be that it was the work of Henderson and, indeed, it is possible that it formed the basis of the more compact Monro School drawing. Another anonymous version of the smaller composition is in the collection of the Art Gallery of South Australia (Radford, 2005, p.322).

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying


1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: A Ship Being Overhauled


1795 - 1796

A Ship Drawn Up on a Beach Being Careened


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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