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

Dover Harbour, with Fishing Boats at Low Tide

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0823: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Dover Harbour, with Fishing Boats at Low Tide, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 21 × 28.3 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅛ in. The High Museum of Art, Atlanta.

Photo courtesy of Sotheby's (All Rights Reserved)

Description
Creator(s)
(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
Title
  • Dover Harbour, with Fishing Boats at Low Tide
Date
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Dimensions
21 × 28.3 cm, 8 ¼ × 11 ⅛ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0823
Description Source(s)
Online Catalogue

Provenance

Sotheby's, 19 July 1979, lot 41 as 'In Dover Harbour - Fishing Boats near the Pier Head - Low Tide' by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £1,000; Hildegard and Clyde Ryals; presented to the Museum, 2007

Exhibition History

Atlanta, 2006, no.60 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner (attributed)

About this Work

This view of fishing boats 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 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.

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, prior to the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, few of the Monro School Dover subjects were described as being the joint productions of Girtin and Turner, this despite the artists’ own description of their practice at the patron’s house as they related to Farington in 1798 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This watercolour has not been seen in public since 1979, when it was attributed solely to Turner. Sadly, it is known only from a poor-quality black and white photograph, so that all that can be said with any confidence is that there is nothing to suggest that it is anything other than a typical collaborative effort between Turner and Girtin.

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying

TG0798

by Greg Smith

Place depicted

Footnotes

  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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