Unidentifiable Works

Richard Stephens

The task of assembling a catalogue of Francis Towne’s work has been greatly assisted by the unusual circumstances of the artist’s rediscovery early in the twentieth century, in which almost all the drawings that have circulated on the art market since then came from a single house near Exeter—the Merivale family’s villa, Barton Place. Quite detailed notes of the collection were made by Paul Oppé, whose 1919/20 article on Towne—largely based on the Merivale drawings—established the artist’s reputation and created a market for his work. A large part of the task of compiling this catalogue, therefore, has been to link Towne drawings on the art market with drawings described by Oppé when owned by the Merivales.

Not surprisingly, the entries contain much information whose connections with particular works is uncertain—even speculative—and in these cases an effort has been made within the entry to convey a suitable level of doubt. Even having exploited a reasonable degree of doubt, it has still not been possible to link positively with known works every single one of the thousands of items of information about Towne that are contained in Oppé’s notes, auctioneers’ catalogues, art dealers’ books, and other records of the past century or so. This leaves some information homeless: for the time being, it cannot be linked meaningfully to works already known to exist. Such information is too insubstantial to merit the creation of new catalogue entries around it. Much of it, though, undoubtedly refers to genuine work by Towne or his circle, and over time drawings will surely emerge that will result in the identification of hitherto unrecorded works to which this information may safely be allocated. But for the present, information is set out here that does not feature in catalogue entries but may yet describe work by Towne. Information known to be erroneously linked with Towne is not shown. The entries are organised by subject, as follows:

X1–6               Italy

X7                   Lake District

X8–9               Switzerland

X10–12           Wales

X13–21           Buildings

X22–31           Rivers, Streams, and Waterfalls

X32–36           Woodland

X37–52           Miscellaneous

X53–55           England

About the author

  • Independent Art Historian


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

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