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

Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0808: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 26.4 × 19.7 cm, 10 ⅜ × 7 ¾ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Christie's (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
26.4 × 19.7 cm, 10 ⅜ × 7 ¾ 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)
Auction Catalogue


John Ruskin (1819–1900); J. C. Platt, London, 26 April 1912, lot 866 as 'Dover - pencil and sepia sketch (Ruskin Coll.) - 8 1/4 x 10 3/4' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by Thos. Agnew & Sons (stock no.7710); bought by 'Mrs Russell Rea' (Jane Rea (née MacTaggart) (1851–1930)), 16 May 1913, £30; then by descent to Nicolaus Rea, 3rd Baron Rea (1928–2020); Christie's, 8 June 1999, lot 135 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; bought by the Leger Galleries, London

Exhibition History

Agnew’s, 1913, no.108; Leger Galleries, 1969, no.25; Memphis, 1978, no.42; Memphis, 1979, no.6

About this Work

This view of a fishing vessel in Dover harbour 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

A Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour

Girtin is not known to have visited Dover and all of his views of the town were copied after other artists, 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 secondary sources (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 views, such as Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying (TG0798), which displays the same fascination with the minutiae of marine labour, suggest that it was a lost sketch 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), combined with the employment of the upright format, which the amateur 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 in 1999 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The drawing is only known from a black and white image and 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 in which the latter’s pencil work appears to play a significant role.

Another version of the composition, with the same dimensions and following the same source closely, is in the collection of Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (see figure 1). The work has been attributed to Turner, but it appears to be a copy of the Monro School watercolour. However, it is impossible to identify the copier amongst the many professional and amateur artists who frequented the patron’s house and had access to his collections.

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Fishing Vessels, Their Sails Drying


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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