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

Vessels in the Harbour at Dover, with the Castle Beyond

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0815: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Vessels in the Harbour at Dover, with the Castle Beyond, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 15.2 × 21 cm, 6 × 8 ¼ in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Bonhams (All Rights Reserved)

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Vessels in the Harbour at Dover, with the Castle Beyond
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
15.2 × 21 cm, 6 × 8 ¼ 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)
Girtin Archive Photograph


Bonham's, 18 November 1998, lot 73, £5,410

About this Work

This view of vessels in Dover harbour, with the castle shown beyond, 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 town were copied after secondary sources, 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 the work of other artists (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 port views – such as Dover Harbour: Small Boats by the Quay (TG0803), which displays the same fascination with the minutiae of marine labour and similarly includes a disparate group of vessels moored in a picturesque harbour setting, or Shipping in Dover Harbour (TG0799), which also shows the castle – suggest that it was an outline by Henderson. The fact that the work came from Monro’s collection is also confirmed by the existence of a copy by John Sell Cotman (1782–1842) (see figure 1), who would have had access to the Monro School copy during his visits to the patron’s house around 1799–1800.2

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, and, prior to the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, few of the Monro School subjects were described as being the joint productions of Girtin and Turner, this despite the artists’ own description of their practice at the patron’s house as related to Farington in 1798 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). This watercolour is currently known only from a poor-quality image. At this distance 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 the two artists, despite the fact that it was attributed to Turner alone when it last appeared on the art market in 1998).

A similar view of the castle, with the jetty and shipping in the foreground, is in the collection of the British Museum (see figure 2). The work has been attributed to Turner in the past, but it appears to be a copy by Henderson of a Turner watercolour (sold at Sotheby’s, 15 March 1984, lot 53), which, in turn, was created from a sketch he made on his trip to Dover in 1793 (Tate Britain, Turner Bequest (XVI A)). The museum currently describes the watercolour as ‘now generally held to be the work of John Henderson’ (British Museum, Collection, 1878,1228.45).

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Small Boats by the Quay


1795 - 1796

Shipping in Dover Harbour, with the Castle Beyond


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).
  2. 2 As Sarah Moulden has pointed out, the attribution to Cotman of this and five other copies of Monro School shipping scenes in the collection of Leeds Art Gallery is not entirely clearcut (Moulden, 2016, p.56).

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