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

Folkestone Harbour

1794 - 1797

Primary Image: TG0834a: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Folkestone Harbour, 1794–97, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 17.2 × 26.5 cm, 6 ¾ × 10 ⅜ in. Julian Huxley-Parlour Fine Art, London.

Photo courtesy of Chris Beetles Gallery, London

Description
Creator(s)
Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and (?) Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
Title
  • Folkestone Harbour
Date
1794 - 1797
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
Dimensions
17.2 × 26.5 cm, 6 ¾ × 10 ⅜ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent

Collection
Catalogue Number
TG0834a
Description Source(s)
Viewed in April 2020

Provenance

Dr Thomas Monro (1759–1833); his posthumous sale, possibly Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 81 as 'Twenty-six sketches at Dover and Folkestone, in blue and Indian ink' by 'Turner'; bought by 'White', £24 3s; ... Sotheby's, 11 November 1976, lot 64 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, £260; ... acquired by Julian Huxley-Parlour as 'View of a harbour ... possibly English School', 2020; Julian Huxley-Parlour Fine Art, 2022 as by Thomas Girtin

About this Work

This view, looking south west along the coast to Folkestone 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 Girtin’s master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804), and 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 and the adjacent coast 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 of coastal scenery and views of shipping 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 almost certainly did not visit the port of Folkestone, a few miles west of Dover, and although his source has not been traced it is likely to have been a sketch by Henderson. Monro’s posthumous sale included ‘Twenty-six sketches at Dover and Folkestone, in blue and Indian ink’ and this, the only view of Folkestone that has so far been identified, therefore appears to have been made after one of the ‘outlines’ lent by Henderson to be copied for Monro (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 28 June 1833, lot 81). The watercolour bears a striking resemblance compositionally to another Monro commission, A Distant View of Tynemouth Priory, from the Sea (TG0850). However, as a comparison with later depictions of Folkestone harbour by Turner and by John Constable (1776–1837) indicates, the distinctive profile of the church of St Mary and St Eanswythe confirms the location suggested by Julian Huxley-Parlour, the dealer who recently bought a work that was then titled a ‘View of a harbour’.

The bulk of the copies sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, despite the pioneering article published by Andrew Wilton in 1984, which established the joint authorship of many of them (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). In this case, the work was bought as ‘possibly English School’, which is somewhat surprising given that the pencil work, particularly on the cliffs, is quite prominent and displays many of Girtin’s characteristic and inventive touches, as do the figures. If anything, it is Turner’s suggested contribution that might be open to question, with the rapidly applied colour washes failing to create either a sense of recession within the landscape or a clear differentiation between the elements of rock, vegetation and water. In general, though, I am inclined to believe that such a falling off of standards in the Monro School subjects resulted from time pressures placed on the young artists rather than indicating the intervention of other, anonymous hands in the work, and the limitations of a given watercolour do not necessarily indicate that it departed from the division of labour that Turner and Girtin themselves described to Farington in 1798.

1796 - 1797

A Distant View of Tynemouth Priory, from the Sea

TG0850

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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