1812–15 Sketchbook

Richard Stephens

This sketchbook contains sketches made in 1812, 1813, and 1815 in and around London, in Windsor, and in the West Country. Paul Oppé’s note of this book reads:

Aug.13.1812. 31 Devonshire St Portland Place. 1812–15 on cover. 7½ x 4⅜ minute hand. Aug 13. 1812 Dulwich Star Cross Sept 18. 1813. David’s Hill Exeter. Aug 18 1815. Topsham Road. 1813 Lympton Windsor. Fordland Aug 19 1815 Windsor. loose sheet Westminster Docks Blackwall June 9 1813. here are most of the time and light remarks.

Judging from this, Towne inscribed the book on the inside cover, “Aug. 13.1812. 31 Devonshire St Portland Place”. Towne began to use the sketchbook the same day, with two sketches in Dulwich, south of London (FT733, FT734), on 13 August 1812, where he may have been visiting his former pupil Harriet Gibbs, daughter of John Merivale’s friend and neighbour Anthony Gibbs (1756–1815), whose wife’s family lived there. The Gibbs family were living in Dulwich in 1812 as tenants of the artist David Cox, from whom Harriet took drawing lessons in 1812–13. After this the book was apparently not used again in 1812, and rarely at all thereafter, with a total of only twenty drawings made over three years. Towne picked it up again on 12 June 1813 when he visited the West India Docks and Greenwich (FT735, FT736), and again on 18 September that year when he was in Devon, exploring the Exe estuary at Starcross, Topsham, and Lympstone (FT737, FT738, FT739, FT740, FT741). Two years later Towne was using the book again, to make sketches in Exeter and at Fordland dated 18 and 19 August 1815 (FT745, FT746, FT747), doubtless in the company of James White. Other drawings are of Windsor (FT743, FT744), perhaps made on separate occasions in 1813 and 1815 if Oppé’s note can be taken to indicate their position within the sketchbook.

Many pages from this sketchbook were on sale at the Fine Art Society in 1946. Probably the book was among the “two small sketchbooks and five small drawings (late)” sold by Judith Merivale to H. B. Milling of Squire Gallery in 1945 for £50, as at least one of its drawings (FT734) was purchased at Squire around that time. The Fine Art Society’s stock book for 1933 to 1945, which would confirm the details, has been lost.

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Article title
1812–15 Sketchbook
Richard Stephens
Article DOI
Cite as
Richard Stephens, "1812–15 Sketchbook", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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