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

The Coast, near Dover

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0834: (?) Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), The Coast, near Dover, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on wove paper, 16.6 × 38 cm, 6 ½ × 15 in. The Higgins, Bedford (P.181).

Photo courtesy of Bridgeman Images, The Higgins Art Gallery & Museum (All Rights Reserved)

(?) Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • The Coast, near Dover
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on wove paper
16.6 × 38 cm, 6 ½ × 15 in
Object Type
Collaborations; Monro School Copy; Work after an Amateur Artist
Subject Terms
Coasts and Shipping; Dover and Kent; Panoramic Format

Catalogue Number
Description Source(s)
Viewed in 2001 and 2019


Elizabeth Mirylees; bought from her, 1958

Exhibition History

Petworth, 2016, no.20


Hartley, 1984, p.68; Joll, 2002, pp.266–67 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner

About this Work

This view of the coast near Dover, one of a small group of watercolours depicting the characteristic chalk cliff scenery near 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 other artists, 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 secondary sources (Exhibitions: Christie’s, 26 June 1833; Christie’s, 1 July 1833). The evidence linking this watercolour to the sketches that Henderson made in the vicinity of Dover is not as compelling as that for the views of shipping in the harbour, such as A Boat on the Shore (TG0797), but the presence of what appears to be Shakespeare Cliff in the distance does suggest that he may have been the original source.

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 by Turner (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23; Joll, 2002, pp.266–67). This is not altogether surprising since, in comparison with the views of shipping, where Girtin’s outline plays an integral part in the composition, here Turner’s washes of colour (even in their limited palette of blues and greys) dominate and what pencil work is visible lacks the clarity and decisive touch of Girtin at his best. Therefore, whilst it is perfectly possible that this work conforms to the strict division of labour as described by Turner and Girtin themselves to Farington in 1798, there is no clear evidence for the authorship of the pencil work, and this uncertainty is not helped by the work’s poor condition, discoloured by extensive exposure to light. That said, one factor might suggest the involvement of Girtin after all. Thus, like the similar Monro School watercolour A Coastal View with Chalk Cliffs, Probably from near Beachy Head (TG0840), this drawing employs an extended panoramic format as a way of articulating a coastal view stretching into the distance, something that Girtin developed further following his trip to the West Country in the autumn of 1797. His first essays in the panoramic mode date from as early as 1796, however, and it is not difficult to see a work such as this as part of the same programme.

Cliffs at Dover, Kent

A Monro School view of what appears to be the same jetty, but from further away, is in the collection of The Whitworth, Manchester (see figure 1). This has been attributed to Turner, but, as Craig Hartley has noted, the washes are ‘too blotchy and aimless’ for the professional artist, though the pencil work is ‘reminiscent of Dayes’, to whom the work has also been attributed (Hartley, 1984, p.68). Hartley’s attribution, ‘Monro School, Unknown’, therefore feels about right.

1795 - 1796

A Boat on the Shore, near Shakespeare Cliff, Dover


1795 - 1796

A Coastal View with Chalk Cliffs, Probably from near Beachy Head


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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