Francis Towne (1739 - 1816)
  • A View from Millbank
ca. 1797
Pencil, pen and black and brown inks, watercolour
  • image width 184mm,
  • image length 222mm
two sheets, watermarked “1794” (left) and “1796” (right), mounted by the artist on paper watermarked “1801”
mounted by the artist
  • sheet, recto
  • “F.Towne / delt
  • in black ink
  • artist's mount, verso
  • “A View from Millbank the Thames Batersea Bridge & Church in the Distance / taken in the Morning of a hot Day drawn by Francis Towne on the Spot”
Object Type

Catalogue Number
Description Sources
Examination; Museum records (image)


This drawing was owned by Helen Alice Dorothy Barlow (1887/1888–1975; see also 71), who presented it to Major J. K. Nairn, who with cousins presented it in November 1971 to the Courtauld Institute of Art (D.1971.XX.11), the present owner. Its earlier provenance is unclear, but it was exhibited for sale at Agnew’s in 1940, as it was illustrated in the Listener (25 July 1940). It may have been acquired by Sir Thomas Barlow, Bt (1845–1945), but the Courtauld Institute records that the drawing’s frame once indicated that it had been exhibited as no.52 in a Fine Art Society exhibition of 1946, although if so it must have been ex cat. The Courtauld also noted a number, 10172 (evidently not from Agnew’s or the Fine Art Society in 1946, both of whom were then issuing four digit numbers starting with a 4).

Associated People & Organisations

Courtauld Gallery, London, London, November 1971, D.1971.XX.11
Major J. K. Nairn
Helen Alice Dorothy Barlow (1887/88 - 1975)
[?] Sir Thomas Barlow (1845 - 1945), 1940
Thomas Agnew & Sons, London, 1940
Exhibition History
[?] Exhibition of Original Drawings at the Gallery, No.20 Lower Brook Street, Grosvenor Square, 20 Lower Brook Street, 1805, no. 15 or 16 as 'From Millbank'
67th Annual Exhibition of Water-Colour and Pencil Drawings, Thomas Agnew & Sons, 1940
English Landscape Drawings and Watercolours, Courtauld Gallery, 1977, no. 13
English Landscape and Watercolours, Courtauld Gallery, 1979, no. 30
The Romantic Windmill, Hove Museum and Art Gallery, 1993, no. 11


Although this drawing is undated, it is clearly from the group made in the summer of 1797 and quite possibly on 5 July, the date of another Millbank sketch (FT595). About this time Millbank provided a site for a number of prominent artists to make atmospheric nature studies, and especially given his unusual inscription of the weather, Towne was no doubt aware of the area’s developing currency among artists. Thomas Girtin’s White House at Chelsea (Tate) of 1800 depicts much the same view as Towne, and Turner’s exhibit of 1797 (Tate) may well have prompted Towne to make the drawing catalogued here. Towne’s viewpoint is the same as an etching published in 1797 by John Thomas Smith (British Museum 1880,1113.2493).

The reviewer A. C. Sewter wrote of the 1940 Agnew’s exhibiton: “Agnew’s exhibition contains a small roomful of older English watercolours, as well as the modern works, and a delightful drawing by Francis Towne of ‘The Thames at Millbank’ (about 1778) possesses very considerable documentary interest.”1 This or another ex cat. work from the Fine Art Society must have been “Francis Towne’s large, but rather slight, sketch of Millbank”, noted by The Times reviewer of the society’s display of London views in February 1942.2 Only one Millbank view is recorded as having been sold by Agnew’s (FT595), which means that this work cannot have been sold there. Perhaps it was left unsold after 1942 and moved instead to the Fine Art Society by 1942, where its inclusion within a focused display of London views may have made its owner feel it had a better chance of sale.

by Richard Stephens


  1. 1 The Listener, 25 July 1940, p.128.
  2. 2 The Times, 5 February 1942.

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