Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View near Exwell looking towards Topsham
Pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour
  • image width 457mm,
  • image length 660mm
  • sheet, recto, lower right
  • “F.Towne delt 1779”
  • sheet, verso
  • “A view taken near Exwell looking towards Topsham drawn by Francis Towne, 1779”
  • verso
  • “D&C Blauw”
  • paper watermark is datable to ca.1769
Object Type

A View near Exwell looking towards Topsham
Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Christie’s records (image)


Commissioned by William, 2nd Viscount Courtenay (1742–1788), and offered for sale by his son William, 3rd Viscount Courtenay, at Christie’s on 15 February 1817, lot 7, as Ditto [i.e. View] near Exwell looking towards Topsham to Farthing. It is thereafter untraced until sold at Sotheby’s on 31 October 1945 (see also 139) to the Fine Art Society (no.4162), from whom it was bought on 2 October 1946 for £157 10s. by Sir William Worsley, Bt (1890–1973). On 21 December 1967 Worsley sold it to Agnew’s (no.7681) with FT432, FT736, FT881b (no.0903), and on the same day Agnew’s sold it to a collector. In 1994 it was on sale at Spink & Son, although it was purchased by them only on 22 July 1997. It was offered for sale at Christie’s on 21 November 2002, lot 28, and was in a UK private collection in 2005, when exhibited by John Spink (but not for sale).

Associated People & Organisations

Private Collection
Christie's, London, London, 21 November 2002, lot 28
Spink & Son, London, London, 1994
Offered for sale, although it was purchased by Spink & Sons only on 22 July 1997
Private Collection, 21 December 1967
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 21 December 1967, no.7681
Acquired with FT432, FT736, FT881b
Sir William Worsley (1890 - 1973), 2 October 1946, GBP 157 10s
The Fine Art Society, London, London, 31 October 1945, no.4162
Sotheby's, London, London, 31 October 1945
Farthing, 15 February 1817
Christie's, London, London, 15 February 1817, lot 7
Listed as 'Ditto [i.e. View] near Exwell looking towards Topsham'
3rd Viscount William Courtenay (1768 - 1835), Exminster, Devon, 1788
2nd Viscount William Courtenay (1742 - 1788), Exminster, Devon, 1769
Exhibition History
Watercolours by Francis Towne, City Art Gallery, 1950, no. 3
Francis Towne and his Friends, John Spink at Colnaghi, 2005, no. 2
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 69, 141
Sir William Worsley, Early English Water-Colours at Hovingham Hall: 1963, p. 10


This drawing is a view from the grounds of Powderham just to the left of the Belvedere, looking up and across the Exe estuary. Topsham is visible on the far bank. Exwell Hill is a prominence a few hundred yards north of Powderham, from which Towne probably made the view.

Oppé saw this drawing in the White Abbott collection, where he called it Mouth of the Exe, “one of John White Abbott’s rather later monochrome drawings of Devonshire. . . . The medium encourages Abbott to a greater boldness of contrast and brings him nearer again to Towne’s larger conception as well as to his mature execution.1 Oppé was unaware of FT137, for which (as Wilcox has observed) this drawing is clearly a preparatory study, described by Towne as A View taken near Exwell looking towards Topsham. There must be a section of the drawing missing, on which Towne based the left area of FT137.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 Oppé 1925, p.76.

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