Monday, 15 February 2021

Francis Towne - part 1

1795 Study for a portrait of Mr Francis Towne of Exeter, Landscape Painter by John Dowman
charcoal, touched with red chalk and heightened with white 
© Trustees of the British Museum

Francis Towne (1739 - 1816) was born in Isleworth, Middlesex, the son of a corn chandler. In 1752 he was apprenticed to a leading coach painter in London, Thomas Brookshead. In 1759 he won a design prize from the Society of Arts, and studied for a while at St Martin’s Lane Academy. .In 1763 Towne was employed by a coach painter called Thomas Watson in Long Acre, and went to Exeter on business, where he soon settled. He had already begun painting in oils and also taught drawing, and now he began to accept commissions from wealthy families in Devon. After a tour of north Wales in 1777 he began to specialise in watercolours.

In 1780 he travelled to Rome, where he knew, and painted with, John “Warwock”Smith, who had been there since 1776, and William Pars, a friend from London. He spent a month in Naples in March 1781. After returning to Rome, and excursions to Tivoli and other nearby areas, he travelled home to England with Smith, passing over the Alps. His works from this trip include over 200 sheets, and 54 large views of Rome which emphasise the ancient ruins rather than the post-classical sights or the contemporary life of the city. These 54 were later exhibited as a group in 1805 but never sold; he painted copies of them instead when he got commissions. Many were reworked later, starting around 1800, in the heavier and more conventional style he had by then adopted. At his death Towne left the group to the British Museum, where they remain.


On his return to Devon, he was asked by Sir Thomas and Lady Acland of Killerton to paint some views in Devon and North Wales, and in 1786 he went on a painting tour of the Lake District. He painted versions of his watercolours, of Rome and elsewhere, in oils, mainly to submit to the Royal Academy, but though several were exhibited his eleven attempts from 1788 on to be elected a member all failed, and he gave up in 1803. He remained in Exeter painting and teaching, achieving reasonable success. In the last years of his life he returned to live in London. He married Jeannette Hilligsberg, a French dancing mistress aged 27, on the 5th of August 1807, but she died in April 1808.


He remained an obscure figure until the early 20th century, so that the collector Paul Oppé was able to acquire numbers of important works very cheaply. Oppé was greatly impressed, especially with Towne's elegant and somewhat stylised early manner, which chimed with trends in English painting at the time, "the taste of our own century for flat colourful pattern-making", as Andrew Wilton put it in 1993. After making contact with descendants of Towne's student and friend, John Herman Merivale, Oppé discovered a collection of largely unseen works which Towne had bequeathed to Merivale. He catalogued the works and published an article about the artist in a 1919 volume of the Walpole Society journal. These writings helped to create a revival of interest in Towne, and more works began to appear on the market. By the 1950s he was widely recognised as an important figure and his works were owned by many museums, especially the British Museum and the Yale Centre for British Art. A  catalogue raisonné of the artist's work is published by the Paul Mellon Centra for Studies in British Art.


This is part 1 of 10 part series on the works of Francis Towne:


c1766-75 Bridge over the River Camel at Wadebridge, Cornwall
 oil on canvas 100.5 x 186.5 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

c1766-75 Church of St Petroc, Egloshayle, near Wadebridge, Cornwall
oil on canvas 101 x 187 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

c1770-77 Landscape, (perhaps of Ugbrooke)
pencil, pen and grey ink, grey wash 27.3 x 42.5 cm

c1770-78 A View of Exeter
pen and grey and brown inks, watercolour 20.3 x 43.4 cm
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

c1770-80 Powderham Castle
pen and brown ink, watercolour
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

c1770 Landscape with Resting Man (perhaps at Canon Teign)
pen and ink, monochrome wash 33 x 41.3 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1771-96 Bay of Naples
pencil and watercolour 50.8 x 76.2 cm
Private Collection

1772 A View of Oakhampton Castle and Town
pencil, pen and black ink, grey wash 20 x 32 cm
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK



1772-73 A View near Canon Teign in Devon
pen and grey ink, grey and light brown washes 30.8 x 25.1 cm

1773 A View of a Tree at Staplehill Farm
pen and ink, grey wash 49.5 x 44.5 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1773 Exeter from Exwick
oil on canvas 116.4 x 163.1 cm
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter City Council, UK

1773 Ugbrooke Park
grey wash 28.3 x 45.1 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1773 Ugbrooke Park
pen and black ink, grey wash 28.3 x 45.1 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1773-80 Landscape with a Foot Bridge
pencil, pen and black and brown inks, watercolour, on laid paper 17.8 x 22.9 cm
Yale Centre for British Art, New Haven, CT

c1773-80 Berry Pomeroy Castle in Devon
pen and ink, watercolour, gum 30.5 x 48.3 cm
The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

1773-87 A View of Exeter, taken between Exwick and Cowley Bridge
pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour 21.6 x 39.3 cm
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter City Council, UK

c1773-90 Near Canonteign
pencil, watercolour and gum 20.4 x 29.1 cm
Tate, London

c1773 A View in Ugbrooke Park
pencil, pen and grey and black inks, grey wash 28.4 x 45 cm 
The Provost and Fellows of Eton College (All Rights Reserved)

1774 Landscape
pen and black ink with grey wash on cream laid paper
19.5 x 25.9 cm
Art Institute of Chicago, IL

1774-75 A View in Ugbrooke Park
pen and black ink, grey wash 28.6 x 45.1 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

c1774-77 Moorland Landscape
pencil, pen and black and brown inks, grey wash
 30.3 x 48.8 cm 
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter City Council, UK

1775 A View from the Hill above the Lake at Peamore
pen and black ink, grey wash 26.4 x 41.9 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1775 A View going up from the Lake in Peamore Park
pencil, pen and ink, grey wash 27.3 x 42.5 cm
The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens, San Marino, CA

1775 A View of Berry Pomeroy Castle within the Gateway
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour, gum 20.3 x 33 cm
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter City Council, UK

1775 Ivy Bridge in Devon
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour 20 x 32.5 cm

1775 Snowdon
oil on panel 44.7 x 56.3 cm

1778 Snowdon
oil on wood 44 x 56 cm
Private Collection

1775 Ugbrooke Park
pen and black ink, grey wash 41.9 x 69.9 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1775-76 A View of the Arch in Peamore Park looking towards the House
pencil, pen and grey and black inks, grey wash 44.4 x 47.4 cm
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK

c1775-80 Haldon Hall
pen and grey ink, grey wash 23 x 40.6 cm
Private Collection

c1775-85 Landscape with Cottage
pencil, pen and grey ink, grey wash 20.3 x 15.2 cm

1776 Ugbrooke Park
pen and black ink, grey wash 41.9 x 70.5 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1777 A Scene on the Banks of the Dee
pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour 30 x 48.4 cm
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT

1777 A View in the Castle at Ludlow
pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour with gum 29.8 x 48.4 cm
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK

1777 A View in the Road near Llangollen
pen and ink, grey and blue washes 24.1 x 30.5 cm
Private Collection

1777 A View near Dolgelly with Part of Cader Idris
pencil, pen and grey ink, grey and blue washes 26.4 x 46.4 cm
Rhode Island Museum of Art, School of Design, Providence

1777 A View of Bridgnorth Castle, Shropshire
pen and ink, watercolour 21.5 x 27.6 cm

1777 A View of Denbigh Castle
pen and ink. watercolour 21.6 x 27.7 cm
Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter City Council, UK

1777 A View of Glastonbury Abbey
pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour 29 x 48.5 cm

1777 A View of Llyn Cwellyn near Snowdon
pen and grey ink, watercolour 27.3 x 42.5 cm
The Samuel Courtauld Trust, The Courtauld Gallery, London

1777 A View of Ludlow Castle, Shropshire
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour 30.2 x 57.2 cm
Private Collection

1777 A View of Machynlleth
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour 21.5 x 28 cm
Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK

1777 A View of the Cataract of the Mawddwy
pen and grey ink, watercolour, scratching out 31.8 x 43.2 cm
Private Collection (All Rights Reserved)

1777 A View of the River Dee above Llangollen
pen and ink, grey wash 28.5 x 47 cm

1777 A View of the Salmon Leap from Pont Aberglaslyn
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour 28.1 x 21.8 cm
Manchester Museum & the Whitworth, University of Manchester, UK

1777 A Welsh Scene (Perhaps near Aberddwlas)
pencil, pen and ink, watercolour, a little gum on laid paper
21 x 27.3 cm
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT

1777 Chepstow Castle
watercolour with gum 29.9 x 48 cm
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK

1777 Glastonbury Abbey
pen and grey ink, watercolour 29.2 x 48.3 cm

1777 Lake Bala
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour 29.9 x 61.4 cm
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK

1777 Landscape Composition
pen black ink, grey wash, laid brown paper 14.7 x 19.4 cm
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, UK

1777 Landscape Composition
pen black ink, grey wash, laid brown paper 15 x 19.3 cm
Ashmolean Museum, University of Oxford, UK

1777 Mynydd Mawr
pen and ink, watercolour 27.3 x 43.2 cm
National Trust for Scotland, Brodie Castle, UK

1777 Near Llyn Cwellyn
pen and ink, watercolour 28.7 x 43.5 cm
Laing Art Gallery, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, UK

1777 Oakley Park
pencil, pen and ink, grey wash 28.6 x 47.3 cm
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK

1777 On the Banks of the Dee near Llangollen
pen and ink, watercolour 26 x 29.9 cm
Private Collection

1777 Pistyll Rhaeadr
pencil, pen and black ink, watercolour 30.2 x 37.6 cm
Yale Center for British Art, New Haven, CT

1777 Pont Aberglasllyn
pencil, pen and grey ink, grey and blue wash 27.8 x 43.1 cm
Birmingham Museums and Art Gallery, UK

1777 Pont Ddu
pen and ink, watercolour 21.6 x 27.9 cm
Private Collection

1777 Powderham Castle
oil on canvas 137.2 x 200.7 cm
Powderham Castle (All Rights Reserved)

1777 Rhaeadr Ddu
pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour 34 x 50.5 cm


No comments:

Post a comment

Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.