Joseph Mallord William Turner, Thomas Girtin

Dover Harbour, with Shipping being Overhauled


In Tate Britain

Prints and Drawings Room

View by appointment
Joseph Mallord William Turner 1775–1851
Thomas Girtin 1775–1802
Graphite and watercolour on paper
Support: 428 × 560 mm
Accepted by the nation as part of the Turner Bequest 1856
Turner Bequest CCCLXXVIII 1

Catalogue entry

Probably commissioned by Dr Thomas Monro
Monro’s posthumous sale, Christie’s, London, 26 June 1833 (probably in 118, as one of nine ‘Views at Dover, &c., blue and grey’ by Turner)
Bought by ‘Churchill’, probably on behalf of Turner
The pencil work is by Girtin. This was presumably copied, like the rest of the Dover made by Turner in collaboration with Thomas Girtin catalogued here (Tate D36617–D36624; Turner Bequest CCCLXXVIII 2–9) from an outline by John Henderson. Given that the composition comprises several boats in a wider harbour setting, the reason the drawing was given the specific title published in early sources is not clear.
An Adelphi Terrace neighbour of Dr Thomas Monro (see the introduction to the present subsection), the amateur artist and collector John Henderson (1764–1843), is known to have lent Monro ‘a Portfolio of outlines of Shipping and boats, made at Dover’, in the winter of 1795–6 (as noted in Joseph Farington’s diary, 1 December 1795).1 Girtin and Turner were set to copying these as they were Monro’s own drawings by John Robert Cozens (1752–1797), Edward Dayes (1763–1804) and others, but there is evidence that Henderson himself copied outlines by Turner. Turner purchased examples of these Dover subjects at Monro’s sale in 1833.2 Henderson’s own collection passed to his son, who bequeathed them to the British Museum Department of Prints and Drawings in 1878. It included several of Henderson’s outlines; their registration numbers are given in the entries to the respective copies here.
There is considerable variation in quality; it is possible that the first two listed here (i.e. the present work and Tate D36617; Turner Bequest CCCLXXVIII 2) are in fact by hands other than Turner’s or even, perhaps, Girtin’s; but it is more likely that they simply reflect different conditions or an earlier date of execution than the rest. All the drawings in the Turner Bequest grouping CCCLXXVIII catalogued in this section were considered by Finberg to have been copied by Girtin after drawings by Henderson. For other drawings related to this ‘Dover’ series see Tate D00163–D00170, D00172, D00173 and D00175 (Turner Bequest XVI A–H, J, K, M), and also Tate D36626 (Turner Bequest CCCLXXIX 2) and D00174 (Turner Bequest XVI L).
See Andrew Wilton, ‘The “Monro School” Question: Some Answers’, Turner Studies, vol.4, no.2, Winter 1984, p.20.
See ibid.

Andrew Wilton
April 2012

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