Studio Watercolours, 1770s

Richard Stephens

Towne’s studio watercolours of the 1770s differ from those of the 1780s and 1790s. Firstly, they have a somewhat different relationship to their preparatory material, as they are based on sketches that do not long pre-date the commissioned versions and were made for this express purpose, in contrast to much of Towne’s post-Italian studio work, which was based on sketches made abroad years before, was often itself coloured and had served various purposes in the intervening years. Whereas the earlier studio work is chiefly monochrome and frequently uses a pen outline, Towne’s later watercolours are highly coloured and more commonly dispense with the pen. Much of this may have been the client’s decision rather than the progress of Towne’s own style, however. For within the earlier group are nine monochrome views of Ugbrooke Park, made for Lord Clifford of Chudleigh between 1773 and 1780 (FT032, FT034, FT037, FT053, FT056, FT057, FT059, FT149, FT151). Yet in 1779 Towne also made two coloured watercolours near the Belvedere at Powderham Castle for Lord Courtenay (FT137, FT139), two survivals among a group that was auctioned in 1817 (FT119, FT121, FT123, FT125, FT127, FT131, FT133, FT135). In addition to Towne’s work for these two men, there is a 1779 view of Torre Abbey (FT147), a large view of the gardens at Peamore near Exeter (FT063) and a view perhaps at Canon Teign (FT028). The last of these has never been examined and may be a sketch drawn on the spot, but the prominence given to a figure who is resting on the path, which may have been added by a different artist, argues that it was developed in the studio, even if it did not originate there.

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Article title
Studio Watercolours, 1770s
Richard Stephens
Article DOI
Cite as
Richard Stephens, "Studio Watercolours, 1770s", A Catalogue Raisonné of Francis Towne (1739-1816), (London: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2016),

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