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

Rye, from the River Tillingham

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0846: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Rye, from the River Tillingham, 1795–96, graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper, 19.6 × 26.9 cm, 7 ¾ × 10 ⅝ in. National Galleries of Scotland (D NG 853).

Photo courtesy of National Galleries of Scotland (CC BY-NC 4.0)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Rye, from the River Tillingham
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite, watercolour and scratching out on wove paper
19.6 × 26.9 cm, 7 ¾ × 10 ⅝ in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
River Scenery; Sussex View

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


Henry Vaughan (1809–99); bequeathed to the Gallery, 1900

Exhibition History

Annual January Turner Exhibition, National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh, 1900-


Armstrong, 1902, p.275 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Campbell, 1993, no.2 as 'Rye, Sussex' by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Baker, 2006, no.2, p.73; Baker, 2011, pp.350–51 as 'Rye, Sussex' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view looking south-east to Rye from the river Tillingham, with the tower of the church of St Mary prominent in the centre, 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

Some of the Henderson outlines used by the Monro School artists include the spectacular cliff scenery of Kent and it is possible that the amateur artist travelled along the coast into Sussex and thus provided the basis for a group of copies that include comparable views such as Beachy Head, Looking towards Newhaven (TG0836). Girtin is not known to have visited Rye, and the views he executed of the ancient coastal town were based on the sketches of his other important early patron, the antiquarian and amateur artist James Moore (1762–99), including views of the Landgate (TG0223) and the Ypres Tower (TG0342). This essentially panoramic view of Rye does not resemble any of Moore’s compositions, however, and I am increasingly inclined to the idea that it was Henderson after all who provided the model for Girtin to follow. A panoramic watercolour of Rye, seen from the marshland to the south east of the town, was produced by Girtin for Henderson (TG1752), and the drawing that this was based on (TG0241) appears to have been copied from a lost sketch by the amateur as well. I suspect that it is no coincidence that that pencil drawing and this Monro School watercolour of the view of the town from the Tillingham share the same dimensions; the two, it seems, were therefore ultimately derived from a pair of on-the-spot sketches by Henderson.

The bulk of the copies 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 many of them, this work is still catalogued by the National Gallery of Scotland as being solely by Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23; Baker, 2011, pp.350–51). This is somewhat surprising, given that the pencil work, including an unusually rich, dark graphite line that might even be black chalk, features prominently and displays many of Girtin’s characteristic and inventive touches. Turner’s sparing application of a limited palette of blues and greys, particularly on the buildings, which are predominantly left untouched to create the highlights, allows one to appreciate the unusually prominent role played by the outline in a broad landscape.

1795 - 1796

Beachy Head, Looking towards Newhaven


(?) 1795

The Landgate, Rye


1795 - 1796

The Ypres Tower, Rye


1796 - 1797

The Town of Rye, Seen from the Marshes


1795 - 1796

The Town of Rye, Seen from the Marshes


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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