Compositions and Copies

Richard Stephens

Towne drew landscape compositions of his own invention, and copies of old master prints, for use as teaching aids in his work as a drawing master. The five examples that survive from the pre-Italian period indicate the variety of sources that Towne could draw from. One (FT786a) contains a strong allusion to Gainsborough, another is notably Roman in character (FT787), and a third, though actually a copy after a composition by Annibale Carraci, feels Dutch (FT788). 

According to Farington’s biographical note on Towne, he moved to Exeter to work as a coach painter (probably in the mid-1760s) but “finding it more profitable than other practise, He devoted most of his time to give instructions as a Drawing Master”.1 Towne’s two earliest recorded pupils were significant figures in Exeter. William Jackson, who was showing the influence of Towne’s drawings by 1777, was the cathedral organist and friend of Gainsborough (see FT892, FT893). Ann Sanders, a pupil in 1778 (FT859), was the niece of an MP and married into one of the oldest and greatest Devon landowning families, the Fortescues (see FT425). By the time Towne had reached Rome, James White could write to him:

“Your loss as a master of your Profession is consider’d as irreparable.”2

About the author

  • Independent Art Historian


  1. 1 Royal Library, Windsor Castle: Notebooks on Artists, vol.3.
  2. 2 Letter from James White to Francis Towne, 27 November 1780.


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

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