Description
Creator
Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
Title(s)
  • A Piece of Flowers
Date
ca. 1762
Medium
Unknown, but probably an oil painting
Object Type
Oil painting

Collection
Catalogue Number
FT004a
Description Sources
Society of Artists of Great Britain Archives
Associated People & Organisations

Untraced
Bibliography
Algernon Graves, The Society of Artists of Great Britain: 1907, pp. 259-260
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 20-21, 115
Paul Oppé, 'Francis Towne, Landscape Painter', The Walpole Society: London, 1920, pp. 96-97, 101
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, pp. 32-34, 36, 162
Society of Artists of Great Britain Archives: London, 1763, MS.SA/23/6, Royal Academy Library

Comment

Towne took part in an auction on 23 February 1762 that was organised by the Society of Artists of Great Britain following their 1762 exhibition. Towne offered four lots, which were determined randomly and do not indicate Towne’s prominence at this early point in his career; although his luck in the draw surely attracted attention to his work. As the auction was organised by the Society of Artists, it is likely that three of the four works can be identified with Towne’s 1762 exhibits (FT002, FT003, FT004). The work being described here is lot 51, “A Piece of Flowers – Companion to lot 41”, which does not appear to have been exhibited in 1762. 

The auction was underwritten by the SAGB, who set the pre-sale estimates and met any shortfall in the actual prices realised. SAGB records describe the four lots of “Mr Town” as raising a total of £8 14s., £3 12s. 9½d. under estimate.1 Lot 51 was estimated at £3 1s. and sold for £2 4s., making a deficiency of 17s. It is interesting that all four of Towne’s lots sold, albeit at low prices and with low estimates (actual value was 70 percent of estimated value). Presumably the modest estimates reflect the low status of the landscape and flower genres, especially in an auction dominated by landscape artists including Richard Wilson and George Lambert. It is unclear why Towne’s companion lots were given lower estimates. Presumably smaller paintings would have been considered less valuable, but they realised much the same prices as the others. It is interesting to note, less than four years after completing his coach-painting apprenticeship and in the same year that he advertised himself as a landscape and flower painter, that both the artists who set the estimates and the market rated his flower paintings more highly than the landscapes he was to specialise in exclusively later on.

by Richard Stephens

Footnotes

  1. 1 RA Library, London, MS.SA/23/6. Many thanks to Matthew Hargraves for giving me this information.

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