Description
Creator
Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
Title(s)
  • Near the Source of the Rhine
  • View in the Grisons near the source of the Rhine
  • A view near the source of the Rhine
Date
No date
Medium
Oil
Dimensions
  • canvas height 762mm,
  • canvas width 635mm
Object Type
Oil painting

Collection
Catalogue Number
FT646
Description Sources
1808 British Institution catalogue; 1788 Royal Academy catalogue

Provenance

Unknown, but perhaps in the collection of Reginald Merivale (1852–1937) in ca. 1915.

Associated People & Organisations

Untraced
[?] Reginald Merivale (1852 - 1937), 1915
[?] John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844), 1825
[?] James White (1744 - 1825), Exeter, 1816
Exhibition History
[?] The Exhibition of the Royal Academy, Royal Academy of Arts, 1788, no. 171 as 'View in the Grisons near the source of the Rhine'
Works of British artists placed in the Gallery of the British Institution, Pall-Mall for exhibition and Sale, British Institution, 1808, no. 305 as 'A view near the source of the Rhine, measuring 762 x 635mm'
Bibliography
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, p. 47

Comment

The source of this work is not known but several drawings near the source of the Rhine were made in 1781 (FT357, FT358, FT359, FT360, FT363, and probably FT362), one of which was exhibited at the 1805 Lower Brook Street exhibition. 

One critic called Towne’s 1788 exhibit “a difficult Subject, but well handled and highly finished”.1 The 1788 exhibit View in the Grisons was the first picture Towne showed in London after his studies in Italy. After almost a decade when he had contributed nothing, this was his reintroduction to public exhibitions, and it marked the start of a fifteen-year campaign for membership of the Royal Academy, which ended in 1803 in a crushing defeat. Afterwards, Towne showed nothing for five years—until the British Institution exhibition of 1808, where his pictures seem to have been old Royal Academy exhibits, until the practice of redisplaying old works was banned after 1810. If the 1788 exhibit was indeed shown again on this occasion, which marked Towne’s reintroduction to the art world after his retirement, Towne’s choice of it seems rather pointed.

Perhaps this picture is the one that Paul Oppé saw in Reginald Merivale’s collection and described in his notes as “Italy? c.2.5 x 2.5 ft [762 x 762 mm] Dark Mt scene – Rocks & Waterfall. Pure dark tone picture of hills with pattern of rocks.2 In his article Oppé described this picture as “traditionally regarded as a view in Wales . . . The view in Wales is remarkable for its intricate pattern of rock, tree, and cloud, cunningly emphasised by the effect of lighting. The general effect is severe and melancholy.”3 Reginald Merivale also owned the two other British Institution exhibits of 1808, FT616 and FT617.

by Richard Stephens

Footnotes

  1. 1 The St. James Chronicle; or British Evening Post, 10 May 1788.
  2. 2 Paul Oppé records: notes, ca. 1915.
  3. 3 Oppé 1920, p.101.

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