Description
Creator
attributed to Francis Towne
Title(s)
  • Near Canonteign
  • Devon Landscape
  • A Devonshire Stream
  • Figures in a wooded valley below a rocky cliff
Date
No date
Medium
Pen and (probably brown) ink, monochrome (probably grey and brown) washes
Dimensions
  • image height 195mm,
  • image length 155mm
Inscription
  • sheet, verso
  • signed with initials and with a further unrecorded inscription
Object Type
Watercolour

Collection
Catalogue Number
FT643
Description Sources
Christie’s records; Philips records (image)

Provenance

Untraced until acquired by Agnew’s by 1947, and thereafter untraced until offered for sale at Phillips on 7 November 1994, lot 20, as A Devonshire Stream, when it was unsold. It was sold at Phillips on 25 September 1995, lot 47, for £420, whereafter it is untraced. Given the title and Agnew’s provenance from the 1940s, though, it is presumably the work sold by the Fine Art Society to Agnew’s (no.4406) for £36 15s. on 21 January 1946 (Agnew’s records suggest 23 January), which was bought by Canon Ralph S. Dawson of Salisbury (d.1968) on 18 January 1949 for £36 15s. as A Devonshire Stream, whereafter it is untraced. Probably, however, this is the Figures in a wooded valley below a rocky cliff of the same size as this drawing (6⅛ x 7¾ in.), also signed with initials and drawn in pen and brown ink, and grey and brown washes, which was sold by the daughter of Joseph Hawksley Elliot of Sheffield (1884/1885–ca. 1978) at Christie’s on 14 March 1978, lot 89, for £700 to Wordsworth (a pseudonym?). That work was sold again at Christie’s, presumably by Wordsworth, on 21 November 1978, lot 25, for £850 to L. Legh(?), as Figures below a rocky cliff near Canonteign. Elliot was still acquiring drawings in the 1960s, so, assuming the two works are the same, it is feasible that he acquired the Figures in a wooded valley after Dawson had enjoyed a lengthy ownership of the Devonshire Stream. One major flaw in this supposition is the lack of visible figures in the image, although the poor quality of the photograph makes firm judgments on this difficult.

Associated People & Organisations

Untraced, 7 November 1995, GBP 420
Phillips, 25 September 1995, lot 47
Phillips, 7 November 1994, lot 20
Unsold
[?] L. [?] Legh, 21 November 1978, GBP 850
[?] Christie's, London, London, 21 November 1978, lot 25
[?] Wordsworth, 14 March 1978, GBP 700
[?] Christie's, London, London, 14 March 1978, lot 89
[?] Joseph Hawksley Elliot (1884 - 1978), Sheffield, 1978
[?] Ralph S. Dawson, Salisbury, 18 January 1949, GBP 36.15s
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1947, no.4406
[?] The Fine Art Society, London, London, 1946
Exhibition History
[?] Winter Exhibition of Early English Watercolours and Drawings, Fine Art Society, 1946, no. 132 as 'Devon Landscape'
75th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1948, no. 142 as 'A Devonshire Stream'
Loan Exhibition of Water-Colour Drawings by Francis Towne (1740-1816) The property of A.P. Oppe Esq. C.B., Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1949, no. 106

Comment

This is a view near Canonteign, from much the same viewpoint as Towne’s drawing of 1772 (FT031). Although it is difficult to be certain on the basis of the image, this appears to be a work of the 1790s or early 1800s. It has a certain fantastic shagginess that one would not expect of a pupil’s imitation, and has Towne’s monogram, a device he used elsewhere (such as FT630, FT636). The branches originating in the bottom-right corner have similarities with Towne’s drawing of that period, for example in the view of Lake Como dated 1800 (FT618) and another landscape from that year (FT622). The early landscape with a resting man (FT028)—which is also surely a scene at Canonteign—deploys much the same Y-shaped branch device in the centre of the picture to enclose the wooded path that travels into the pictorial space at the bottom left, while pointing upwards towards the peak of the rock.

Conceivably this was one of two Canonteign views at Towne’s 1805 exhibition (1 or 2, Canon-teign, Devonshire), but it seems rather unlikely. The late tree studies that Oppé regarded as feeble and were signed with initials (FT637, FT638, and FT639) may also be considered. The early provenance provides some circumstantial support to link this work with the tree study group, as the drawing under discussion first appeared on the market at the Fine Art Society in 1946 shortly after the studies were sold to Squire Gallery, where drawings later sold at the Fine Art Society sometimes first appeared. This drawing is also substantially without a pen outline, as those were, and is signed with initials. Yet it is more substantial than a mere tree study and is recognisably a landscape of Canonteign, of which doubtless Oppé would have been aware. Even so, the possibility remains that this drawing may be double-counted with one of the foliage studies, BP192, BP193, and BP194.

by Richard Stephens

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