For full functionality of this site it is necessary to enable JavaScript. Here are the instructions how to enable JavaScript in your web browser.
Works Thomas Girtin and Joseph Mallord William Turner after (?) John Henderson

Shakespeare Cliff, Dover

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0837: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Shakespeare Cliff, Dover, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 20.5 × 27 cm, 8 ⅛ × 10 ⅝ in. National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (NGI.2406).

Photo courtesy of National Gallery of Ireland, Dublin (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Shakespeare Cliff, Dover
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
20.5 × 27 cm, 8 ⅛ × 10 ⅝ 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 2015


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


Armstrong, 1902, p.249 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner; Dawson, 1988, pp.52–53; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.44–45 as 'Shakespeare's Cliff, Dover' by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of Shakespeare Cliff, Dover, one of a small group of coastal scenes taken from west of the port, 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 port and the adjacent coastline were copied after secondary sources, including his master, Edward Dayes (1763–1804). However, whilst Turner travelled to the town 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 shipping scenes – such as A Boat on the Shore (TG0797), which also includes a view of Shakespeare Cliff – suggest that it was an outline drawing by Henderson. The fact that the marine historian Pieter van der Merwe has even been able to identify the distant sailing ship shown sheltering under the cliff also suggests that the work was based on a sketch by Henderson, who was clearly fascinated by the minutiae of marine labour and coastal life. The beached vessel, Der Merwe suggests, is a gaff-rigged cutter, which was commonly used in the English Channel as a revenue patrol vessel, to carry mail or for other purposes that demanded speed (quoted in Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.44–45). Henderson may not have been particularly interested in geology, but the use of thin washes over a prominent line is nonetheless successful in reproducing the appearance of the white cliffs streaked with black flint, and the result is a noticeably more sophisticated landscape than the view seen behind the shipping in the other view of the Shakespeare Cliff.

All of the views of Dover and the south coast sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, which established many of the Monro School Dover subjects as the joint productions of Girtin and Turner, this watercolour is still catalogued as solely by Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23; Hodge and Mac Nally, 2012, pp.44–45). This is surprising since the pencil work, particularly on the cliffs, is quite prominent and it displays many of Girtin’s characteristic and inventive touches. Unusually for what is primarily a landscape, rather than a study of shipping or architecture, Turner’s limited palette of blues and greys is applied very sparingly, allowing the line to play a more prominent role than in comparable views such as the panoramic The Coast, near Dover (TG0834).

1795 - 1796

A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover


1795 - 1796

The Coast, near Dover


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).

Revisions & Feedback

The website will be updated from time to time and, when changes are made, a PDF of the previous version of each page will be archived here for consultation and citation.

Please help us to improve this catalogue

If you have information, a correction or any other suggestions to improve this catalogue, please contact us.