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

Vessels Moored in Dover Harbour

1795 - 1796

Primary Image: TG0816a: Thomas Girtin (1775–1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775–1851), after (?) John Henderson (1764–1843), Vessels Moored in Dover Harbour, 1795–96, graphite and watercolour on paper, 28 × 23 cm, 11 × 9 in. Private Collection.

Photo courtesy of Paul Mellon Centre Photographic Archive, PA-F05905-0031

Thomas Girtin (1775-1802) and Joseph Mallord William Turner (1775-1851) after (?) John Henderson (1764-1843)
  • Vessels Moored in Dover Harbour
1795 - 1796
Medium and Support
Graphite and watercolour on paper
28 × 23 cm, 11 × 9 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)
Auction Catalogue


Victor Rienaecker (1887–1972); Crispin Warmington; Phillips, 8 October 1984, lot 97 as by Joseph Mallord William Turner, unsold

About this Work

This unfinished view of vessels anchored in Dover harbour, one of two versions of the same composition (the other being TG0816), 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 – suggest that it was an outline by Henderson. The measurements of the watercolour, which conform to the smaller-scale sketches produced by Henderson (c.21 × 28 cm, c.8 ¼ × 11 in), such as Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour (TG0808), combined with the employment of the upright format, which he favoured for his studies of single vessels, also point in the same direction.

All of the views of Dover sold at Monro’s posthumous sale in 1833 were attributed to Turner alone, but, despite the fact that the joint authorship of the Monro School subjects has become increasingly the norm following the publication of Andrew Wilton’s pioneering article in 1984, this work was still listed as solely by Turner when it last appeared on the art market in 1984 (Wilton, 1984a, pp.8–23). The watercolour is known only from a black and white photograph, but there is no reason to suspect that Girtin was not involved in its production since in its unfinished state plenty of his characteristic pencil work can be seen, particularly in the rigging of the more distant vessels. Unfortunately, the other version of this composition is also only known from an old photograph and it has not been possible to work out the precise relationship between the two watercolours. The other is, however, clearly more finished, with the distant vessels and the white cliffs beyond them carefully coloured, perhaps suggesting that this work was abandoned in favour of a squarer, more concentrated composition.

1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour, with the Cliffs Beyond


1795 - 1796

Dover Harbour: Small Boats by the Quay


1795 - 1796

Figures on a Fishing Vessel in Dover Harbour


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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