Description
Creator
Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
Title(s)
  • Rhaeadr Ddu
  • Rhaidar Dû
Date
1777
Medium
Pencil, pen and grey ink, watercolour
Dimensions
  • image height 340mm,
  • image length 505mm
Support
four sheets of laid paper, the largest of which (bottom left) has horizontal and vertical creases and an indistinct watermark including a coronet, the second largest (top right) has a vertical creasethe draiwng is mounted by the artist on laid paper
Mount
mounted by the artist on laid paper
Inscription
  • sheet, recto, lower left
  • “F.Towne / delt 1777 No.16”
Inscription
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “No.16 / Rhiaddr du North Wales / drawn on the spot by / Francis Towne July 5. 1777 / Mounted Octr 21st 1801.”
Object Type
Watercolour

Collection
Catalogue Number
FT082
Description Sources
Author's examination of the work

Provenance

Bequeathed by the artist in 1816 to James White of Exeter (1744–1825), on whose death it passed to Towne’s residuary legatee John Herman Merivale (1779–1844) and his successors. Merivale’s granddaughters Maria Sophia Merivale (1853–1928) and Judith Ann Merivale (1860–1945), both of Oxford, inherited the drawing in May 1915 (BP107). Judith Merivale sold it to Squire Gallery in August 1936 for £23 2s., from whom presumably it was bought by the Fine Art Society, as it was on sale there from 1937 to 2 January 1943, when it was sold to Sir Esmond Otho Durlacher (1901–1982) for £195 with six other works. It was sold at Sotheby’s on 20 February 1946, lot 80, for £40 to Colnaghi (no.A13492), who sold it on 8 May 1946 to Sir Bruce Sterling Ingram (1877–1963) for £55. Wilcox noted it in the “Ingram family Collection” in 1997 and it was sold by the estate of Michael Ingram (1917/1918–2005), Bruce Ingram’s nephew, at Sotheby’s on 8 December 2005, lot 142, for £34,000 including fees.

Associated People & Organisations

P&D Colnaghi & Co, London
Sir Esmond Otho Durlacher
The Fine Art Society, London
Sir Bruce Stirling Ingram (1877 - 1963)
Michael Ingram
John Herman Merivale (1779 - 1844)
Judith Ann Merivale (1860 - 1945)
Maria Sophia Merivale (1853 - 1928)
Sotheby's, London
Squire Gallery
Untraced
James White (1744 - 1825)
Exhibition History
Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 45 as Rhaidar Dû
Exhibition of Early English Water-Colour Drawings, Fine Art Society, 1937, no. 39
Exhibition of Early English Water-Colour Drawings, Fine Art Society, 1937, no. 3
Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, Fine Art Society, 1938, no. 99
Summer Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, Fine Art Society, 1938, no. 4
Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, Fine Art Society, 1939, no. 67
[?] Exhibition of Early English Watercolours, Fine Art Society, 1941
Exhibition of Watercolours: Drawings and Oils by Early English Artists, Fine Art Society, 1942, no. 46
Exhibition of Watercolours: Drawings and Oils by Early English Artists, Fine Art Society, 1942, no. 102
Exhibition of Watercolours: Drawings and Oils by Early English Artists, Fine Art Society, 1943, no. 36
Three Exeter Artists of the Eighteenth Century: Francis Hayman RA, Francis Towne, John White Abbott, Royal Albert Memorial Museum, 1951, no. 76
A Loan Exhibition from the Collection of Sir Bruce S.Ingram O.B.E. M.C., Colnaghi, 1952, no. 79
Watercolour Drawings of Three Centuries from the Collection of Sir Bruce and Lady Ingram, Colnaghi, 1956, no. 13
Bibliography
Adrian Bury, Francis Towne - Lone Star of Water-Colour Painting, Charles Skilton: London, 1962, pp. 95, 144
H. J. Paris, English Watercolour Painters, Collins: London, 1945, p. x
Timothy Wilcox, Francis Towne, Tate Publishing: London, 1997, pp. 43, 136
Henry Penruddocke Wyndham, A Tour Through Monmouthshire and Wales Made in the Months of June and July 1774 and in the months of June, July and August 1777: Salisbury, 1781, p. 116

Comment

Rhaeadr Ddu was one of the best-known waterfalls of the North Wales tour, its reputation consolidated by Paul Sandby’s aquatint of 1777, which shares Towne’s viewpoint.

1777

Figure 1.
Paul Sandby, Rhaeadr Ddu, 1777


Digital image courtesy of National Library of Wales, P03696

Wyndham also recorded a visit:

In one of our excursions from Tan y Bwlch, towards Harlech, we deviated a little from the road, to see the Rhaidr du (or black cataract) so called from the colour of the river. This is a fall of the rivulet Velenryd. The stream rushes down a steep and broad groove, which is worn in the mountain, for the space of 100 yards, before it arrives at the precipice. It is then forced through the mouth of the cataract, with so extraordinary a violence, that the water forms part of an elliptical curve with its snowy-white spray, before it reaches the pool, which is 40 feet below. A regular bason, semicircled with a high barrier of rock, and surrounded with a thin shade, receives it. The other parts of the valley of Velenryd are barren and uninclosed.1 

As Towne’s inscription states, the drawing was mounted many years after his visit to Wales. Parts of the right and foreground of the drawing also appear to have been worked on in ca. 1800. The channel of water in the right corner, the central rock, and the yellow tree at the water’s bank all have neat hatchings typical of Towne’s finished work of the late 1790s and 1800s. Towne may also have added in the rocks sitting in water in the right mid-ground, and the right portion of the sky has a grey moodiness not unlike other works to which Towne returned many years after beginning them (FT051, FT252, FT253).

This drawing may well be the “excellent and typical Welsh waterfall, by Francis Towne”, noted by a reviewer of the autumn 1941 Fine Art Society exhibition of English drawings,2 although no reference in their catalogues to such an exhibit can be found.

by Richard Stephens

Footnotes

  1. 1 Wyndham 1781, p.116.
  2. 2 The Times, 6 November 1941.

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